In honor of National Sexual Assault Awareness Month and in partnership with the international non-profit organization Dress for Success, the New York employment law firm Outten & Golden, LLP provided pro bono workshop advice to a group of women reentering the workplace this week.
According to the law firm, the workship addressed the fact that sexual harassment is highly underreported because women fear retaliation, especially in difficult economic times and especially by women who have may be securing employment after a long time out of the workforce.
Tammy Marzigliano, co-chair of the firm’s sexual harassment practice group, said, "For success in the workplace, you have to know your rights as well as your job. There are strong protections against retaliation, but the first line of defense is a woman who knows and can act on her rights."
According to federal data, women face undiminished gender hostility in the workplace, from harassment to sexual assault. In 2008, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 13,867 charges of sexual harassment – a 10 percent increase over the previous year. Women filed 84 percent of the charges. The Commission’s Acting Chairman, Stuart J. Ishimaru, recently stated that "[t]he EEOC has not seen an increase of this magnitude in charges filed for many years. While we do not know if it signifies a trend, it is clear that employment discrimination remains a persistent problem."
President Obama urged, in his proclamation the April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, ". . . all Americans to respond to sexual assault by creating policies at work and school, by engaging in discussions with family and friends, and by making the prevention of sexual assault a priority in their communities."
Ms. Marzigliano added, "Some of the issues addressed in the workshop were defining and identifying sexual harassment, steps to take if you are a victim of sexual harassment, and how the law can help. Dress for Success prepares women to look like serious professionals in the workplace. We hope our workshop empowered them to demand of their bosses and coworkers that they be treated with the dignity they are entitled to under the law."
Joi Gordon, CEO of Dress for Success Worldwide, said, "We are so appreciative of Outten & Golden, LLP for offering this program to our Professional Women’s Group members. Our focus is to provide our women with the tools to thrive both professional and personally and knowing their rights when it comes to sexual harassment is paramount to their success."
Dress for Success promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. To date, Dress for Success has helped more than 500,000 women work towards self-sufficiency.
New York-based Outten & Golden LLP is a preeminent law firm representing employees -- "Advocates for Workplace Fairness." More information about the firm is online at www.outtengolden.com.