This article is the first in a two-part series that explores issues of sexual harassment in the workplace.
The year was 1980. It was my first job in private industry and I was working in a division of a company that would later become part of what is now Verizon. To make a long story short, I was asked to develop a communication program in response to an incident of sexual harassment of a female employee in our southern Georgia division location. The president of the division said he never wanted what happened to her to happen again.
There was little information on this topic and no communication materials. The only research that existed was a 1976 study done by Redbook magazine. We were at square one. Over the course of the next few months, we developed a short film, a policy, a reporting procedure, a brochure and a meeting leader’s guide. These materials were aimed at helping supervisors discuss this topic with their teams and let employees know that the company was focused on eliminating sexual harassment from the workplace.
In the process of working on this project, I was promoted to a corporate role, and the program became a U.S. company-wide in the U.S. Later in 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidelines on sexual harassment.
Companies were trying to figure out how to respond to the new guidelines and how to talk about a subject that many felt uncomfortable with. I became even more aware of and sensitive to the issues of sexual harassment and its disturbing consequences. It knew no boundaries. It happened between and among people of different sexes and the same sex. It happened to people in factory jobs and in the boardroom—people starting out in their careers and more experienced professionals....
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