The recent case of former Public Broadcasting Service host Tavis Smiley, whose television show was suspended nearly three years ago after allegations of sexual misconduct, reflects the reality that some people in positions of authority wield their power in order to commit workplace misconduct.
Recently, a federal judge ordered Smiley to pay $2.6 million to PBS for his acts of sexual harassment against employees. On Aug. 5, Judge Yvonne Williams of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia increased the $1.5 million amount initially awarded to PBS by a jury in March. After the initial jury award, PBS argued that it should receive additional monetary damages due to the fact that Smiley violated a morals clause in his contract.
Smiley accused by many subordinates
Smiley’s show, which aired on PBS for nearly 14 years, was canceled in December 2017 when the allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced. PBS investigated Smiley after learning of accusations that Smiley engaged in improper sexual relations with subordinates, and made unwanted sexual advances toward female employees that included specific sex acts, crude sexual jokes and lewd comments. PBS also faulted Smiley for creating a hostile work environment that included cursing, threatening and belittling his employees. In a subsequent investigation, Smiley admitted that he may have sent pornographic photos to coworkers.
How to protect your rights as a victim of sexual harassment
If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, the following are some initial steps that you can take in order to fight backs
· Document every incident of sexual harassment, even subtle ones. Keep track of details that include dates, times, witnesses, locations, and descriptions of the incidents.
· Save all communications related to every sexual harassment incident. This includes voicemails, text messages, emails, and any communications on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
· Seek a trusted ally within your office. This person could be a coworker, manager from another department, or a member of human resources. However, remember that Human resources is not always the most reliable ally since HR sometimes places the company’s interests over those of its employees.
· Reach out to a trusted employment law attorney who possesses the experience and knowledge to assist you with your case.
It is important to protect yourself if you feel trapped in a hostile workplace. An attorney well-versed in employment law, including cases of sexual harassment in the workplace, can help you understand your options.