UNITE HERE Local 1, a union representing hospitality workers in the Chicagoland area and Northwest Indiana, recently conducted a study on workplace trends among local employees. CBS Chicago reported on the story, and the results are troubling. Out of 500 women employed in local hotels or casinos, 58 percent have supposedly experienced sexual harassment while on the job. This is significantly higher than the estimated national average of one in three women, as indicated by a separate survey.
Examples of sexual harassment in Chicago include encountering guests that expose themselves or answer the door naked. Women have also been groped or touched in unwanted ways, cornered, and pressured for dates or sexual favors. Some have been the receivers of unfavorable comments or were shown sexual photos. Among housekeepers, guests’ showing them their penis was the most common form of harassment. Employees reported an impact to their sense of security, feeling humiliated or demoralized and an increased sense of depression or anxiety.
Sarah Lyons, a UNITE HERE Local 1 representative, is a victim of workplace assault. “I told no one ever because of shame, because of fear, because my husband would be mad at me, because I might get fired or maybe I brought it on.” UNITE HERE Local 1 strives to empower women to tell their stories by regularly holding panels about the consequences of harassment and the culture of silence. Their activism is particularly important at a time when locker room talk and the possible legitimizing of harassing behavior by Donald Trump has made national headlines.
Similarly, Chicagobusiness.com reported on working conditions at a Ford Motor assembly plant on the south side of Chicago. In 2003, the plant paid $9 million in penalties following a class-action sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit. Eleven years later it was hit with another suit alleging nearly identical claims.
Although the plant was forced to implement sexual harassment training and preventative procedures, lead attorney for the plaintiffs Keith Hunt claims that employee training ended when the probationary oversight period that was required by the terms of the lawsuit also ended. None of the four plaintiffs pressing charges claim to have attended a seminar since the beginning of their employment. They also claim to have sought help through multiple channels only to be ignored or shut down. According to one of the plaintiffs Helen Allen “I told a couple of guys ‘Hey, you’re in the red.’ And they were like ‘What are you talking about?” Although Ford claims to have a zero-tolerance policy, the allegations of the plaintiffs say otherwise.
“Sometimes it takes multiple times to rid a particular facility of a particular culture” says Patricia Nemeth, an attorney specializing in labor and employment law. “This is just one example. But it does mean you have to keep your foot on the pedal.” Other Chicago-area plants that have been involved in sexual harassment lawsuits include Caterpillar Inc.’s Joliet and Aurora plants.
Sexual harassment in Chicago will never be curbed unless the right action is taken. If you feel you might have been victimized, the professionals at USAttorneys.com may help.