A staggering number of women experience sexual harassment and assault each year. Now more than ever, though, survivors are being heard, and their offenders are receiving their due punishments. Fear and shame often prevent a victim or witness from reporting a predator, but the law protects people who speak up.
Fear of speaking up
This was the case for Carrie Vargas, an employee of Plastipak Packaging in Havre de Grace, Maryland in 2016. Another employee repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her while she worked. When the offender wouldn’t stop, Carrie reported the harassment to her superior.
Rather than conducting an investigation, however, Plastipak Packaging fired Carrie the next day, saying that the termination was in her “best interest.”
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment. This law also prohibits employers from retaliating against people who complain about discrimination or harassment. Plastipak Packaging was deeply in the wrong, and a suit was promptly filed against them.
Stand up for yourself
Carrie’s bravery and willingness to speak out resulted in the loss of her job, but it started the wheels of justice moving. It took time, but in early 2018 Plastipak Packaging awarded Carrie $90,000 in monetary relief. It doesn’t stop there, though.
Plastipak also implemented a comprehensive new policy prohibiting sexual harassment and retaliation; all managers, supervisors and employees now receive sexual harassment and retaliation prevention training, and a new emphasis on a culture of mutual respect and speaking out has swept through the facility.
Make things right
Carrie refused to succumb to the feelings of fear and shame that are the status quo after harassment. She became the catalyst that made her entire facility safer. When you see harassment, or fall victim yourself, let stories like this one bolster your courage. The ripples of reporting sexual harassment can be far-reaching and may resolve bigger problems than you could have imagined.