10 things YOU can do as an everyday activist
1 Know the law and your rights.
Sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination that violates federal law—but only if there are more than fifteen people at your workplace. Domestic workers, many home-care workers, and farmworkers are not protected. Many states have fair employment practices laws, however, but these laws may cover different workers and workplaces from federal law.
2 Demand better workplace policies and anti-harassment training.
Look into whether your employer has an employee handbook or manual containing anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies, confidential reporting and complaint procedures, and offers resources. If you are in a union, check the collective bargaining agreement for negotiated protections against workplace sexual harassment. Ask your employer or union to create or update new policies if existing ones are insufficient. Also make sure your employer provides regular, mandatory, in-person training for all employees on preventing and responding to workplace sexual harassment. Effective workplace educational programs create a workplace culture that promotes respect, dignity, equity, and safety. These programs also help employees understand their rights, provide strategies for how to be “upstander” instead of a bystander, and provides information on what accountability measures are in place to address incidents of harassment.
3 Get and give support.
If you experience sexual harassment or violence in the workplace, know that it is not your fault and you are not alone. If you feel comfortable doing so, consider confiding in a trusted friend, coworker, or family member who can listen and offer support. Individuals process experiences of sexual harassment in different ways and have different needs. A survivor may first feel shocked that it happened and may even want to deny it, might feel ashamed or to blame, or immediately angry and want to take action. All or none of these responses are completely normal. If you are experiencing some of the reactions listed here, then please consider seeking support from a counselor, sexual assault service provider in your community, or close friends.
If you witness sexual harassment at work, consider if it’s safe to intervene for you as well as the target of the abusive conduct — check out Hollaback’s resources on bystander intervention. Reach out directly to the individual experiencing harassment, both to offer support and validation. If someone discloses to you that they have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, recognize that choosing how to respond is an intensely personal and difficult process, with potential ramifications for the target’s job and career. Provide assurances of your continued support, whichever route the target of harassment chooses to take. Offer to accompany them for difficult meetings or interactions. If you have information about the incident, conduct, or parties involved, offer to add your voice to theirs as a witness. But most importantly, listen, and try not to substitute what you may think should be done for what the survivor wants or needs.
4 Contact your elected officials.
Demand that Congress do the following:
- Extend the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 180 days to at least three years;
- Remove the caps on compensatory and punitive damages;
- Allow survivors to hold both perpetrators and employers liable for damages;
- Extend federal protections to include all employment situations so that all workers are protected; and,
- Eliminate the tipped sub-minimum wage.
5 Support worker campaigns.
Rally friends and coworkers. Spread the word on social media, donate to a workers’ rights group, or organize a fundraising event. Support measures such as the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in your state.
6 Get to know your coworkers.
Get to know the people you work with so you can better share information and work together to take action for an improved workplace environment. Support networks in the workplace to reduce the incidence of sexual harassment and ensure greater accountability. The larger the network, the more power you have to bring about change. Always ensure that the workers who are directly affected by sexual harassment inform the strategy and lead decision-making. Finally, document any problems—through surveys, research, or crowd-sourced documents. You can’t fix what you don’t know.
7 Join a workers’ rights network or union.
Workers’ rights networks and unions help protect workers from sexual harassment through provisions contained in a collective bargaining agreement or through collective action. If your workplace is unionized, make sure your union is taking the issue of sexual harassment seriously.
8 If you identify as a man, stand up, and speak out.
If you see something, say something. Call out behavior you witness that is disrespectful, abusive, discriminatory, or sexist. Help ensure that there are explicit efforts to support, mentor, and promote colleagues who might be marginalized and targeted because of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and/or immigration status. Advocate for them to be heard, respected, and promoted.
9 Patronize businesses that treat their workers fairly.
Use the Diners’ Guide to eat at restaurants that provide better wages, benefits, and promotion opportunities to their employees. Shop at grocery stores and fast food chains that participate in the Fair Food Program. Also look for the Fair Food label to help identify foods that are harvested by workers with the highest level of protection of rights. Use the Fair Hotel Guide when booking hotels.
10 Invest in companies committed to ensuring workers’ rights.
Consult the Criterion Institute’s toolkit for leveraging finance as a way to end gender-based violence. It includes practical questions to ask your financial advisor to ensure your investments promote gender equity and support companies that have gender and racial diversity in the boardroom and in leadership positions, pay fair and equitable wages, and give workers generous family leave and other supportive benefits.