Activist Tarana Burke started the #MeToo campaign more than a decade ago to highlight the stories of sexual harassment survivors and offer them a way to be heard. The effort was rebranded as the #MeToo movement in 2017 after a New York Times investigation brought numerous allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
In March, Weinstein was sentenced to a 23-year prison term for a first-degree criminal sexual act and third-degree rape. The disgraced movie mogul still faces several criminal sexual assault charges in Los Angeles. Weinstein’s prosecution kicked off a new era in the conversation around sexual violence. While cases involving celebrities and other powerful people have dominated the news, what has the movement meant for the average person?
Laws and actions related to #MeToo
Despite the notoriety and results of the movement, sexual misconduct remains a pervasive problem in American workplaces and society in general. However, #MeToo has motivated many states and companies to act. Positive results have been seen over:
- Nondisclosure agreements: New York, New Jersey, California and several other states have enacted laws banning the use of nondisclosure agreements in sexual misconduct cases.
- Increased worker protections: New York extended its sexual harassment law to include independent contractors, who are not covered under federal laws.
- Times Up Legal Defense Fund: The cost of bringing a harassment lawsuit is seen as too expensive by many. However, Times Up, a group fighting harassment, has raised more than $24 million and helped nearly 4,000 survivors take legal action.
- Ending the tipped minimum wage: Restaurant and bar workers often put up with harassment from customers because objecting to their behavior could result in the loss of a tip and their ability to make a living. Employers are supposed to make up the difference between earnings from tips and the minimum wage, but many don’t. Seven states have ended the tipped minimum wage as a result.
- Protections for congressional staffers: In 2018, Congress passed legislation making it easier for congressional staffers to report sexual assault or harassment.
- Financial restitution: In 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission won $70 million from companies for harassment survivors, an increase of 47% from 2017.
- Perceptions about sexual harassment: Perhaps the most important effect of the #MeToo movement has been to shine a spotlight on how widespread sexual misconduct is not only in the workplace, but society in general.
Much work remains to end harassment
While the #MeToo movement has had tremendous success in exposing sexual misconduct, many people continue to suffer from abuse and harassment, which can destroy careers and make going to work unbearable. If you experience harassment at work, whether it’s subtle or direct, an experienced employment law attorney can protect your rights and help hold the wrongdoer accountable.