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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Part 1: The Dawning of a New Day

Man and woman sitting at a table conducting business.

From the glitz of Hollywood to the hallowed halls of Congress; from major news networks to the music and sports industries, allegations of sexual harassment are ubiquitous. While these high-profile reports dominate the headlines and spur a national conversation, we must seize this opportunity to discuss this topic locally in our respective workspaces. We all have a responsibility to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and do our part to keep the workplace free from it.

The "Me Too" movement has given voice to the powerless, and has put oppressors on notice that this is the dawning of a new day. "Me Too" is a phrase originally coined by Tarana Burke in 2006 to help women who had experienced sexual abuse. In 2017 this phrase became the slogan of the movement to end sexual harassment.

No longer will those subjected to sexual harassment have to fear that their complaints won't be taken seriously. No longer will abusers feel free to behave inappropriately without fear of exposure and sanctions.

Organizations nation-wide are reviewing their policies and procedures for handling claims of sexual harassment to ensure that they are sufficient. Francis Collins M.D., Ph.D., the NIH Director, issued a Statement on Workplace Harassment to all NIH employees via email on December 13, 2017. The statement outlines NIH's stance and provides resources.

The email also outlines plans to: 1) Expand the Civil Program portfolio to improve the process for investigating and addressing allegations of harassment; 2) Issue a Chapter of the NIH Manual to provide information and resources to help eliminate workplace harassment; and 3) Administer a Workplace Climate and Harassment survey to provide baseline metrics of workplace interaction and the effect of harassment on careers. The NIH will use the findings from the survey to effect change.

For additional information on this topic managers may visit Prevention of Sexual Harassment for Managers, and employees may visit Prevention of Sexual Harassment for Employees.

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