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Attitudes about harassment have changed little

Most California residents have likely heard about Bill O'Reilly being fired recently from his job with Fox News. One explanation given for O'Reilly's termination after years of sexual abuse allegations leveled against him was that the landscape in corporate America has changed in recent years. Low employee morale and the loss of advertisers were other reasons cited for his ousting from the network.

Examining how sexual harassment in the workplace was viewed in the past can shed light on whether people's views on this issue have changed. In 1980, a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review in conjunction with Redbook found that women were more likely than men to view sexual harassment as a real issue at work. According to the survey, just 29 percent of companies in 1980 had formal policies in place for dealing with sexual harassment while only 8 percent offered any sort of training materials to help handle the issue.

In comparison, 98 percent of contemporary businesses have created formal sexual harassment policies and 70 percent offer materials on how to handle the problem if it arises. However, data also shows that roughly 33 percent of women have reported being harassed at work, yet only 5-15 percent of them actually report the instances. And with good reason: they are more likely to be retaliated against compared to the alleged perpetrators of the behavior.

Someone who believes that he or she has been the victim of harassment at work may wish to pursue legal action. If a company wrongfully terminates an employee for reporting harassment, that person may be entitled to back pay plus other damages in addition to possible reinstatement. An attorney may be able to help an individual gather evidence or take other steps to help preserve his or her rights during the proceedings.

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