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Workplace sexual harassment protection has a long way to go

New Yorkers who believe their industries or chosen professions are free of unwelcome sexual situations may be interested to learn that the modern workplace isn't as advanced as many think. Although people tend to associate fields like construction and other traditionally male-oriented industries with the worst behavior, experts report that sexual misconduct is also a persistent problem in other professions.

In one case from January 2016, a University of Chicago professor resigned following multiple misconduct incidents. In late 2015, a progressive PR firm was forced to close after numerous allegations arose. Although experts commenting for NPR say that things are getting better, they also maintain that a number of problems make it hard to put a firm stop to sexual harassment.

One of the hurdles cited was the fact that courts may disregard bad behavior as merely being an expected component of some corporate cultures. Other factors that could influence victims to settle for hostile workplaces include job scarcity and the potential threat of retaliation for reporting offenders. Employers use written policies to define harassment, but such definitions may fail to cover certain types of behavior or subtle actions that can be referred to as microaggressions.

Those who want to escape hostile work environments may feel limited in their options. HR staff at companies where misconduct is an accepted part of the corporate culture could try to bury any allegations or reports they receive, and victims may feel too threatened by their close proximity to the offender to pursue the matter further. Although advocacy for these issues is on the rise, victims should remember that their workplace's internal reporting and resolution methods usually aren't the only remedies legally available to them.

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