And, for many sexual harassers, the one language they understand is the bottom line. If they have to pay for their sexual harassment, either in the civil justice system or in the criminal justice system, then they will understand that it's going to be costly for them to do this again. I think that's the best teaching moment that they can have.
Any woman who is thinking of speaking out against a rich, powerful, famous man — or just someone who has power over them in the workplace whose name isn’t well-known — should speak to a sexual harassment lawyer before she decides to speak out publicly. There are risks, real risks, in naming someone and accusing him of a crime. Be aware of what those risks are and then make an informed decision as to whether you wish to take them.
If you are being sexually harassed now, document what's happening to you and, if there is an HR department at your workplace, file a complaint in a timely way. Your employer has a duty to do a prompt, fair and thorough investigation. You have a right not to be retaliated against if you assert your rights and file a complaint. If you are retaliated against after you protest sexual harassment, you would be able to sue for that.
In addition, you should know that many, many, sexual harassment complaints are settled confidentially, so you don't have to be concerned that reporting harassment will affect you in another job, if that's your fear. We settle thousands of cases confidentially, and no lawsuit is ever filed.
It's hard enough to do a job without having to be in the workplace that some predators think of as a sexual playground for themselves. It's against the law; it's against public policy. What we want is respect and dignity for our daughters and our sisters and our mothers. Women speaking out have become a chorus for change and are making a statement: We're not going to take it anymore.
Gloria Allred is a founding partner of the law firm Allred, Maroko & Goldberg (AM&G), which handles more women's rights cases than any other private firm in the nation. She also founded and is currently president of the Women's Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund (WERLDEF).
As told to THINK editor Megan Carpentier, edited and condensed for clarity.