Freelance or contract workers are often treated differently than employees under state and federal employment law. For instance, a Tennessee freelancer can't sue for gender discrimination or harassment. This could lead such an individual to stop pursuing their passion or otherwise slow their potential for growth in their chosen career. As the number of freelance or contract workers continues to rise, there are questions being raised about how to better protect them in the workplace.
A new sexual harassment reporting system from a nonprofit called Callisto may make it easier to protect tech founders from being harassed by investors. It will allow those in Tennessee and throughout the country to make allegations on an anonymous basis while posting information about potential abusers. It is expected to go live in the summer of 2018, and there is already a version aimed at helping those on college campuses report harassment and abuse.
Sexual harassment can be a serious concern and an all-too-frequent occurrence for workers in Tennessee and across the United States. Indeed, a 2016 report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that only 10 percent of employees subjected to sexual harassment on the job file an official complaint with the agency. Approximately 90 percent of people who have suffered workplace harassment do not file formal claims because they have a well-founded fear of retaliation in their workplace or concern that they will not be believed.
Employment rights of Tennessee workers could be expanding if the nation follows the lead of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. The federal appeals court for New York, Connecticut and Vermont recently ruled that employers may no longer discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.
Black and older women as well as people who work at larger companies in Tennessee and throughout the country may be more likely to report sexual harassment than young white women. Data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission indicates that while from 1997 to 2017 there was a drop from 16,000 to 9,600 in sexual harassment complaints, not all employees have benefited equally from this drop.
Two state legislators have put forward a bill that would extend protection from sexual harassment to independent contractors. Scandals emerging from the state's music industry prompted them to take action to help members of the workplace who fall through loopholes in employment law because they are contractors instead of employees. Current law only allows contract laborers to file complaints about sexual harassment if their contract specifically addresses the topic. Without legal protection, a contractor could risk a career to come forward with an allegation against an employer.
Most employers in Tennessee and around the country have procedures in place that allow workers to report sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior, but a study from the Society of Human Resources Management suggests that they are rarely used. According to SHRM, incidents involving sexual harassment are only reported by victims or witnesses about 25 percent of the time. The study also revealed that workers are often unaware that their employers have reporting procedures in place.
Media outlets in Tennessee and around the country have covered several stories concerning lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle who have been accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior. The rules dealing with the way these allegations are handled have been criticized for lacking transparency and being unfairly harsh on victims, and the House of Representatives addressed these concerns on Feb. 6 by overwhelmingly passing legislation that would reform them.
An executive at Monster Energy has resigned amid allegations of an abusive and discriminatory 'guys club" culture at the company. At the center of the allegations are separate lawsuits filed by five female employees detailing a series of allegations which, if proven, would indicate violations of federal civil rights laws. Workers in Tennessee are often subjected to similar behaviors.
While most Tennessee workers are aware of laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, teenagers at their first jobs might be less knowledgeable and more vulnerable. They might not have a strong awareness of what constitutes sexual harassment or what to do if it occurs. The American Association of University Women did a survey and found that more than half of girls in high school said they had experienced sexual harassment while working during the school year.