The latest episode of CalChamber’s The Workplace podcast focuses on men and the #MeToo movement. As more publicity is being given to instances of sexual harassment around the country, men have responded to news stories and other developments in a variety of ways. Some will no longer meet with female colleagues or socialize with women coworkers to protect themselves from the possibility of being wrongfully accused of harassment. Erika Frank, CalChamber Vice President of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, is joined by Jennifer Shaw, President of the Shaw Law Group, to shed light on these issues and provide perspective on the #MeToo movement.
“We all want to protect women in the workplace for sure, and what’s happening is we’re getting this focus on an unintended consequence (men excluding women or treating them differently due to fear of being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment). I don’t think people are talking about this issue nearly enough,” Shaw says. “We see it in our practice every day.”
Both Frank and Shaw agree that sometimes the way men have responded to #MeToo movement has created interesting and often problematic circumstances in the workplace. Both lawyers believe heightened awareness and embracing a sense of fairness for all workers is the key to avoiding a discrimination complaint that actually resulted from an over-exaggerated fear of a harassment complaint.
Frank points out that one of the things many people don’t realize is that “unfortunately, avoiding one issue—sexual harassment—opens the door to another legal issue, and that’s gender discrimination.”