Civil Rights Act, Harassment, and Sexism
November 23, 2021
Over the last few decades, individuals have begun to take note of the great divide that existed among men and women, hence, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was established. This prevented sex discrimination in the workforce under federal law. However, until recently the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission extended the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, preventing sex discrimination in the workforce under federal law, as well as discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Unfortunately, when it comes to workplace protection, states’ laws on “sex” and “gender” discrimination vary completely. Depending on where an individual’s career is, women often find themselves working in a regularly hostile environment.
Like my mother and her mother before her, my sister and I were raised to have tough skins. As we grew up, she taught us to cope with the curveball’s life would inevitably throw at us in the future. In our society, most working women were raised the same way, especially in the workforce. This is seen through a Deloitte survey, Women at Work: A Global Outlook, discovering that 52% of women have experienced some form of harassment or microaggression in the past year. Continual exposure to a hostile work environment can have an impact on a woman’s mental and physical well-being, leaving them exhausted and drained of energy. No one should ever have to go through that.
Interestingly enough, ever since the pandemic happened, a majority of people started to work remotely, so people no longer have to bear the in person office commentary, repressing the microaggressions they would usually hear throughout the day, if they were in a hostile work environment. However, in the age of remote work, virtual harassment has become the new method of choice to even make your own home feel like an unbearable and unsafe place to work. Jennifer Brown emphasizes this in Leah Fessler’s article: “Since the start of the pandemic, employees have felt as if online environments are the wild west, where traditional rules do not apply.” Online harassment can happen by phone or on a social gathering site which are often unmonitored, unrecorded, or even occur outside employer sponsored platforms. Unfortunately, there are no witnesses to online harassment to confirm the story, time, and place. While it is understandable that there is comfort in working remotely because it permits people to have more freedom than a traditional job, would anyone really want the place they once sought solace and comfort in to become a literal living nightmare?
Over time the decade’s worth of layering sexist behavior resulted in intersectional effects as well, branching off and affecting women of color. It is true that women as a whole make up half of workforce, yet according to a recent Gallup survey, one in four Black and Hispanic employees reported employment discrimination in the past year (Lloyd, 2021). When dealing with employment discrimination, women of color in particular have the unfortunate experience of double discrimination. Discriminating against you not just on the basis of your sex, but by the color of your skin as well. Even some Native American women will only make half of every dollar that is earned by a white man in the same position. A report from Project Include found that “25% of respondents experienced an increase in gender-based harassment during the pandemic, about 10% experienced an increase in race-and-ethnicity-based hostility, and 23% of respondents who were 50 and up experienced age-based harassment.”
However, now that society is returning to semi-normalcy, a majority of people are going to experience return-to-work anxiety. Although the pandemic forced a majority of us into remote work, we have grown used to the flexible schedules and overall freedom that we did not have before. However, for many women, going back means returning to the repressed microaggressions from their male co-workers and high rates of stress and burnout.
Hentze Iris., Tyus, Rebecca. (2021, August 12) Discrimination in the Workplace: Discrimination Based on Sex and Gender. National Conference of State Legislatures. https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/-gender-and-sex-discrimination.aspx
Villines, Zawn. (2021, June 21) Effects of gender discrimination on health. MedicalNewsToday. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/psychological-effects-of-gender-inequality#trauma-exposure
Fessler, Leah. (2021, June 8) Workplace Harassment in the Age of Remote Work. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/us/workplace-harassment-remote-work.html
Hentze Iris., Tyus, Rebecca. (2021, August 12) Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. National conference of State Legislatures.https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace.aspx
Pickering, Robin. (2020, January 16) Workplace sexism can be harmful to women’s health: Impacts most prevalent in male-dominated fields. Journal of Business.https://www.spokanejournal.com/local-news/workplace-sexism-can-be-harmful-to-womens-health/