There is a staggeringly large list growing of high-profile men being hit with allegations of inappropriate behavior. From Hollywood to Congress and everywhere in between those who misbehaved are being outted for their actions.
Some, like Matt Lauer or Harvey Weinstein, have been buried by a mountain of accusers. Individuals like Mario Batali immediately issued a sort-of apology. Others — like TJ Miller — had shows canceled within minutes of a single accusation, yet received no investigation into the incident even after denying the sexual assault allegation.
It begs the question of what can happen to those who are not in the public spotlight, but responsible for providing for their family.
Tom Spiggle is author of the book “You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired: Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace.” He is founder of the Spiggle Law Firm, which has offices in Arlington, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Nashville, Tennessee, where he focuses on workplace law helping protect the rights of clients facing pregnancy and caregiver discrimination, sexual harassment and wrongful termination in the workplace.
Spiggle has responded to the growing fear of men that anything can be misrepresented these days -- including men who believe things like 'Did you do something with your hair?' or 'nice dress' could land them in the HR department, or unemployment line.
"You are not going to end up in court because you were too enthusiastic when praising the dress the intern wore to the office holiday party. That’s not to say those remarks are appropriate or that you shouldn’t think hard about how you treat the women in your office," he penned. "It’s just that the growing fear among some men that sexual harassment laws are being enforced too stringently is misplaced.
"In fact, violations of the law on sexual harassment remain as difficult to prove legally as ever. A hostile work environment claim must involve behavior that is either severe or pervasive.
"The allegations against these men were not only clearly illegal, they were very public. In that sense, the legal claims against these men was less a factor in their firings than the public storm created by the allegations forcing companies to act quickly. Companies don't face the same pressures when considering allegations involving your average middle manager.
"So, most men need not stay up at night worrying about their job security simply because they work alongside women. However, it is true that companies — as they should be — will be on high alert for sexual harassment claims for at least as long as the fickle media spotlight stays on them. This means that complaints that previously might have been ignored by HR departments, will be moved to the top of the pile. And a woman need not have a winning claim against you to justify your boss from giving you the axe. Still, women are not gleeful about filing harassment claims, even if they have reason to believe they will be listened to now. The process is painful for all involved. So don't expect your aggrieved intern to run to HR because you commented on her new shoes.
"The bottom line: Don’t be a jerk, and you’ll be fine. If you’ve been sort of a jerk, you’ll probably still be fine, but you might want to start making amends and update your resume.
"And if you know your behavior crossed a line — if you constantly commented on women’s appearances, asked your female co-workers about their sex lives and told them about yours, kissed women who did not want to be kissed, groped them, rubbed up against them, exposed yourself to them, propositioned them, punished them for resisting your advances or sexually assaulted them — well, you might want to look into getting a lawyer.
"And I’ll see you in court, where I’ll be representing the other side."