Sexual harassment went unchecked for decades as payouts silenced accusers
Every case of sexual harassment is different, but these tips can help if you want to take action. USA TODAY
Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version misstated the name of Cindy Gallop's website.
The floodgates have opened on sexual harassment claims against immensely powerful men. But high-profile dismissals, including the firing of NBC host Matt Lauer and media mogul Harvey Weinstein, remain the exception, not the rule, for companies facing harassment issues.
For many firms, paying fines for sexual harassment has been treated as a cost of doing business. In the past seven years alone, U.S. companies have paid out more than $295 million in public penalties over sexual harassment claims, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission records.
And that sum does not count all the private settlements that typically are granted in exchange for alleged victims signing non-disclosure agreements.
Even those who were hit publicly with varying types of harassment charges managed to carry on with their careers in the aftermath. The highest-profile example is President Trump. But there are many others. For instance:
In 2007, when he was president of basketball operations for the Madison Square Garden-owned Knicks, former NBA star Isiah Thomas was found by a jury to have aided and abetted a hostile work environment after being accused of sexual harassment. Thomas now is president of the New York Liberty WNBA team, which also is owned by Madison Square Garden, and a commentator for NBA TV.
In 2010, hard-charging Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd was forced to resign after HP's board investigated his interactions with a female contractor and found inconsistencies in his expense reports. The investigation arose after that contractor claimed she was sexually harassed. One month after his resignation, Hurd landed a job at Oracle, where he is now CEO.
Senior executives at firms including Starwood Hotels, American Apparel and Baker & McKenzie have all weathered sexual harassment allegations and moved on to other high-powered positions.
As recently as last January, Fox News re-upped host Bill O'Reilly to a $25 million-a-year contract, according to the New York Times, even though O'Reilly or parent 21st Century Fox had settled multiple cases over misconduct with women, including one he settled for $32 million. Fox later said it was aware of harassment allegations against him and said O'Reilly, who was subsequently forced out, assured it he had "settled the matter personally."
O'Reilly has denied allegations of sexual misconduct and said he settled to protect his children. Hurd denied harassment charges and noted HP never found any evidence of it. Thomas has also denied the harassment allegations made against him.
94% of the 843 women surveyed by USA TODAY who work in the entertainment industry say they've experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault.
Brendan Fraser is the latest actor to come forward with his story of sexual assault in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement. Time
Jennifer Lawerence's new movie 'Red Sparrow' depicts a strong woman. She explains how that role impacts the Me Too movement. USA TODAY
Monica Lewinsky wrote an essay in Vanity Fair about why she supports #MeToo. Elizabeth Keatinge (@elizkeatinge) has more. Buzz60
Guess said on Tuesday its co-founder Paul Marciano will give up his day-to-day responsibilities at the company on an unpaid basis pending the completion of a probe into accusations of improper conduct. Video provided by Reuters Newslook
Celebrities wore black and brought activists to a politically charged BAFTA award ceremony on Sunday night, in order to promote the Time's Up movement against sexual harassment. Jayson Mansaray reports. Video provided by Reuters Newslook
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia been accused of urging her staffers to play “spin the bottle” as part of a “toxic” office atmosphere. Nathan Rousseau Smith reports. Buzz60
Male stars at the Berlin film festival say they are reassessing their own behavior in light of the #MeToo movement by women against sexual harassment and abuse. Rough cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters Newslook
New York Fashion Week: sexual harassment victims walk the runway Video provided by AFP Newslook
Actor Alexander Polinsky claims he was sexually harassed and assaulted by Scott Baio as a teenager. USA Today
That’s according to LeanIn.org's new study. Time
At the Women's March in New York, the singer-songwriter shared a personal spoken word about her own experiences with sexual violence, urging others to lend a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. USA TODAY
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks about sexual harassment at the Sundance Film Festival. Time
Michael Douglas has been accused by a former female co-worker of having masturbated in front of her and stopping her from having a successful career in Hollywood. USA TODAY
#MeTooCongress is planning to make a statement at President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address. Veuer's Chandra Lanier has the story. Buzz60
Bella Thorne is the latest star speaking out about sexual assault in Hollywood Time
NBC has revisited its sexual harassment policies following the firing of Matt Lauer, according to Page Six. Ryan Sartor (@ryansartor) has that story. Buzz60
ESPN has fired former NFL stars Donovan McNabb and Eric Davis for their roles in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former NFL Network employee. Time Sports
After a civil lawsuit was filed against Paul Haggis accusing the filmmaker of rape in December, three additional women have come forward with sexual misconduct allegations against him, according to a report from the Associated Press Time
Tony Award winner and TV star Ben Vereen has apologized for “inappropriate conduct” during a 2015 stage production of “Hair” at The Venice Theater in Florida. USA TODAY
A 22-year old woman alleges she was sexually assaulted on a Spirit Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Detroit. Buzz60
Assuming she was the first — and only — victim, Fehr says she started with the ombudsman and said she was "overwhelmed by feelings of horror" and "terrified to leave my apartment much of the time." USA TODAY
A report examining Woody Allen's notes finds he "quite simply, drips with repetitious misogyny," even posing as a porn director. Buzz60
The day after Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez was fired, details of the impending sexual harassment lawsuit against him have surfaced. Time_Sports
Hollywood A-listers are donating big bucks to fight sexual harassment! Rob Smith has all the details. Buzz60
The longtime leader of the New York City Ballet is retiring in the midst of an investigation into accusations of sexual misconduct. Time
A Washington man is facing child endangerment charges after reportedly massaging a teenage boy’s back without permission at a New Jersey airport. Time
Detroit Pistons guard Avery Bradley paid a settlement to a woman who said that he sexually assaulted her earlier this year, according to a report from TMZ Sports. Time_Sports
Photographer Betsy Bissen has accused Minnesota Twins star Miguel Sano of sexual harassment in a Twitter post with the #MeToo hashtag. Time_Sports
NFL Network executive David Eaton has resigned amid sexual harassment claims made against the company. Time
The wave of sexual misconduct allegations that toppled Hollywood power brokers, politicians, media icons and many others was the top news story of 2017, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors. (Dec. 21) AP
Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney was forced to sign a confidential settlement with the group that trains US Olympic gymnasts to keep allegations that doctor Larry Nasser sexually abused her a secret, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday. (Dec. 21) AP
She could have stood up for women who were being sexually mistreated by a powerful man. Instead, she defended him and cast doubt on his accusers, says Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America Wochit
T.J. Miller has been accused of sexual misconduct and now his television show 'The Gorburger Show' has been cancelled by Comedy Central after simply one season of airing. USA TODAY
Matt Damon spoke out once again about sexual misconduct in Hollywood and this time he got a lot of backlash for his comments. Wochit-All
This Oregon Christian school teacher arrested; busted by her own husband having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student. Buzz60
One prominent federal appeals court judge announced his retirement after claims surfaced of a sexual harassment scandal. Buzz60
Kansas Democrat Andrea Ramsey will drop out of the US House race after sexual harassment claim resurfaces. Buzz60
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke fired four senior officials over inappropriate conduct, including sexual harassment. Veuer's Sam Berman has the full story. Buzz60
Carter Oosterhouse, the star of HGTV’s Trading Places, has been accused of sexual misconduct by a former employee. Time
Several current and former female ESPN employees have come forward to the Boston Globe with allegations of sexism at the network. Time
Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold won't seek re-election next year, adding his name to the list of lawmakers leaving Congress amid sexual harassment allegations. (Dec. 14) AP
Tavis Smiley shot back on Facebook, vowing to fight back after PBS fired him amid allegations of sexual misconduct. (Dec. 14) AP
Kentucky State Representative Dan Johnson was found with a single gunshot wound to the head days after he was accused of molesting a teenage member his congregation. His suicide note included cryptic references to 9/11 and PTSD. USA TODAY
ABC pulled The Great American Baking Show amid harassment claims against one of the show’s judges Time
In the wake of many sexual harassment claims, is 2017 the year we retire ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’? USA TODAY
Three women have accused hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of rape. USA TODAY
After comparing former President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle to monkeys in 2016, the same Kentucky lawmaker is now being accused of sexual assault. Buzz60
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk was among three NFL Network analysts suspended. USA TODAY Sports
Matt Damon says sexual harassment of any kind needs to be eradicated, but also claims "we've got to figure out our appetite for retribution." (Dec. 12) AP
Mario Batali is stepping back from his restaurant empire and was dropped as a host of ABC's 'The Chew' amid multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. Time
Judge Alex Kozinski of Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is facing allegations of sexual misconduct by six clerks or more staffers. For more on the story here is Zachary Devita. Buzz60
Woody Allen’s daughter Dylan Farrow is asking why her father has been spared in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the subsequent #MeToo movement. Time
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks announced Thursday night he will resign from Congress at the end of January after the House Ethics Committee said it would open an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. Time
The Committee on House Administration convened Thursday aimed to overhaul the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act. (Dec. 7) AP
Speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment breakfast, Jennifer Lawrence and Angelia Jolie tackled big issues, including Hollywood harassment and the plight of women worldwide. (Dec. 7) AP
Audio tapes of Corey Feldman’s 1993 interview with the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office have been located. Wochit-All
Male model Jason Boyce is accusing Photographer Bruce Weber of sexual harassment. USA TODAY
The top editor for the 'National Enquirer,' 'Us Weekly' and other major gossip publications is being accused of openly describing his sexual partners in the newsroom, forcing women to watch or listen to pornography and more. AP
Plagued by sexual misconduct allegations, longtime Rep. John Conyers announces his retirement and endorses his son to replace him in Congress. (Dec. 5) AP
John Hockenberry has been accused of sexual harassment by women while hosting the show 'The Takeaway' back in 2014. USA TODAY
According to Blake Farenthold's former spokesman, the GOP Texas representative used taxpayer dollars to help settle a sexual harassment suit. USA TODAY
Mary J. Blige, Betty Who and Kelly Clarkson reflect on sexual assault allegations in the music industry as artists are honored at the Billboard Women in Music event in Los Angeles. (Dec. 1) AP
Top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi says Michigan Rep. John Conyers, facing sexual misconduct allegations, should resign from Congress. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan echoed that call. (Nov. 30) AP
Legendary Actress Bette Midler told Barbara Walters that TV personality Geraldo Rivera groped her in the 1970s. Buzz60
Reaction to the firing of Matt Lauer on the street at the 'Today' show. USA TODAY
Garrison Keillor, the former host of 'A Prairie Home Companion,' says he’s been fired by Minnesota Public Radio over allegations of improper behavior. Time
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Flash and Supergirl have cut all ties with Andrew Kreisberg following sexual-harassment claims from multiple women involving the showrunner. USA TODAY
Andy Rubin left Google in 2014 and founded Essential in 2015 to create smartphones to rival Google's Pixel and Apple's iPhone. Wochit-All
Thousands of women are identifying themselves as victims of sexual harassment or assault following a call to action propelled by Alyssa Milano in the wake of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's downfall over of allegations of sexual misconduct. (Oct. 17) AP
NBC's 'Today' announced the sudden termination of anchor Matt Lauer amid an allegation of inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace. USA TODAY
Over 140 women have accused Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. USA TODAY Sports
Disney executive on leave over improper contact with staff Video provided by AFP Newslook
The longest-serving current House member, Democratic Representative John Conyers of Michigan is the latest of powerful men in politics, the media and entertainment to be accused of sexual misconduct. Buzz60
Longtime journalist Charlie Rose joins the growing list of high-profile men accused of sexual harassment or assault. USA TODAY
Sexual harassment of any kind can leave invisible scars. Time
Senator Al Franken has been accused of unwanted groping and kissing by model and sportscaster Leeann Tweeden. She says Franken kissed her against her will. USA TODAY
Ed Westick has been accused by a third woman, Rachel Eck, of sexual assault. USA TODAY
A bipartisan group of Senators and Congressional members introduce the 'METOO Congress Act' aimed at reforming how Congress handles sexual harassment. (Nov. 15) AP
He made the announcement the same day new allegations of harassment came to light in Congress. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
The female cast of One Tree Hill and the show's crew to wrote a letter accusing Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment. USA TODAY
Stories of sexual harassment and gender hostility are coming to light at a hearing on preventing sexual harassment on Capitol Hill. GOP congresswoman, Barbara Comstock, says she was told that a member of Congress exposed himself to a staffer. (Nov. 14) AP
Actor Tom Sizemore is accused of touching an 11-year-old girl’s genitals, while filming a movie in 2003. Buzz60
An Alabama woman, Beverly Young Nelson, is now the fifth woman to accuse Roy Moore of sexual assault. She says he groped her 40 years ago when she was 16 years old and told her, "no one will believe you, you're only a child." USA TODAY
Another woman accuses former President George H.W. Bush of groping her when she was just 16 years old. Josh King has the story (@abridgetoland). Buzz60
People are posting photos of their 14-year-old selves with the hashtags #NoMoore, #NeverMoore and #MeAt14 in response to "The Washington Post" article that reported Roy Moore had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl. USA TODAY
Multiple people accused producer Andrew Kreisberg of creating an inappropriate and "toxic" work environment. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Survivors of sexual assault and harassment are expected to attend a #MeToo Survivors march on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Actor Anthony Edwards has revealed that he is a survivor of sexual assault. Edwards claims Gary Goddard, a well-known theatrical director, producer, and theme park designer, sexually abused him when Edwards was a young teenager. USA TODAY
A third woman has accused actor Jeremy Piven of sexual misconduct. USA TODAY
While promoting his upcoming film 'I Love You, Daddy,' star, writer, and director Louis C.K. was asked about the allegations of sexual misconduct that have followed him for years. USA TODAY
In a tweet, Portia de Rossi recounted her audition for a film Steven Seagal also had a part in. The actress says Seagal told her “how important it was to have chemistry off-screen,” and unzipped his pants. USA TODAY
Several GOP lawmakers say if the sexual misconduct accusations against the Alabama senate hopeful reported in 'The Washington Post' are true, Roy Moore must drop out of the race. USA TODAY
Former Boston news anchor Heather Unruh accused Kevin Spacey of sexually assaulting her son at a Nantucket, Mass., bar in 2016. Her "star-struck" son was 18 years old at the time. USA TODAY
Kevin Spacey was accused by more than a dozen men who say he sexually harassed and attempted to rape them decades ago. USA TODAY
The New Hampshire attorney general’s office said on Tuesday that three Dartmouth College psychology professors are under criminal investigation over accusations of sexual misconduct. USA TODAY
Kevin Spacey has been accused of making sexual advances on actor Anthony Rapp when he was a teenage boy in 1986. (Oct. 30) AP
Almost half of America’s working women say they have been harassed at their jobs, a new poll has found. Time
Many of Hollywood's most powerful men are struggling with how to address the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein and others in the industry. Here's why. USA TODAY
NBC News and MSNBC senior political analyst Mark Halperin has issued an apology to five women after being accused of sexual harassment during his time at ABC news. Buzz60
The sexual harassment dominoes continue to fall as more women go public with allegations of men exploiting positions of power. USA TODAY
Change continues to occur for Amazon Studios. USA TODAY
Actress Heather Lind says former President George H.W. Bush touched her "from behind from his wheelchair" at an event four years ago. USA TODAY
Fashion photographer Terry Richardson has been banned from working with major magazines over sexual misconduct allegations dating back to 2010. USA TODAY
The New York attorney general's office subpoenaed documents from The Weinstein Co. relating to sexual harassment and discrimination. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Bill O’Reilly is mad at a lot of people, including God. Nathan Rousseau Smith (@FantasticMrNate) reports. Buzz60
Add another name to the list of powerful men being accused of sexual harassment in Hollywood. Reported by the Los Angeles Times, Oscar-nominated writer and film director, James Toback has been accused of sexual harassment by more than 30 women. USA TODAY
Scotland Yard is investigating after a model came forward, accusing David Blaine of rape. Natasha Prince alleges the magician assaulted her in London in 2004. Veuer's Sam Berman has more. Buzz60
Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney released a statement on Twitter claiming that was sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar. USA TODAY Sports
Years before Jennifer Lawrence became an A-list celebrity for her role in 'Hunger Games,' she was told horrible things by filmmakers. The Oscar winner shared her story at the 'Elle' Women in Hollywood event. USA TODAY
On screen she fought bad guys from a galaxy far, far away, but during her time on Earth, Carrie Fisher fought bad guys a lot closer to home Time
Five-star basketball recruit Emmitt Williams has been charged with felony sexual battery and false imprisonment, according to the Orange County jail records. Time_Sports
- The 94 percent: How common is sexual misconduct in Hollywood?
- Brendan Fraser claims ex-Hollywood Foreign Press president groped him
- Jennifer Lawrence explains the Me Too impact
- Monica Lewinsky says #MeToo helps women support each other
- Guess co-founder steps aside amid #MeToo allegations
- Stars and activists unite to say "Time's Up" at the BAFTAs
- #MeToo lawmaker now faces ‘spin the bottle game' accusations
- Male stars at Berlin film festival say #MeToo movement is making them think
- New York Fashion Week: Sexual harassment victims walk the runway
- Actor Alexander Polinsky accuses Scott Baio of sexual abuse
- Study: #MeToo is making men uncomfortable
- Halsey shares powerful speech about sexual violence
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg talks #MeToo movement
- Michael Douglas sexual misconduct allegations
- Female lawmakers plan to wear black at State of the Union Address
- Bella Thorne reveals she's been molested
- NBC issues new sexual harassment rules following Matt Lauer firing
- ESPN fires McNabb, Davis after harassment claims
- Paul Haggis accused of rape, sexual misconduct by multiple women
- Ben Vereen apologizes for ‘inappropriate conduct’
- Woman says she was sexually assaulted while asleep on her flight
- Former patient alleges rape, 'cover-up' by Cleveland Clinic
- Woody Allen's private notes reportedly obsess over teenage girls
- Court Filing Details Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Rich Rodriguez
- Hollywood A-listers donating big bucks to fight sexual harassment
- Leader of NYC Ballet retiring amid a sexual misconduct investigation
- Man reportedly massages teenage boy, then gives him note with money
- Avery Bradley Accused of Sexual Assault, Paid Settlement to Accuser
- Twins' Miguel Sano Accused Of Sexual Assault By Photographer
- NFL Network executive resigns amid harassment scandal
- Sexual Misconduct Allegations Top 2017 AP Poll
- Gymnast Maroney: Settlement Covered Up Sex Abuse
- Anita Hill is not Hollywood’s answer
- T.J. Miller’s 'The Gorburger Show' cancelled due to sexual misconduct accusations
- Matt Damon gets backlash for comments on Hollywood's sexual misconduct problem
- Teacher arrested after being caught in bed with student
- Sexual harassment allegations cause prominent federal judge to retire
- Kansas Democrat Andrea Ramsey drops out of House race
- Ryan Zinke fires four Department of Interior employees for harassment
- HGTV star Carter Oosterhouse accused of sexual misconduct
- Female employees detail experiences with sexism at ESPN
- Farenthold: 'I am profoundly sorry'
- Tavis Smiley, suspended, but vows to fight back
- Dan Johnson commits suicide after sex assault accusation
- ABC pulls 'Great American Baking Show' amid harassment claims
- Is 2017 the year we retire ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’
- Russell Simmons accused of rape by three more women
- Lawmaker who compared Obamas to monkeys accused of sexual assault
- NFL Network suspends three over sexual harassment allegations
- Damon considers the public's 'appetite for retribution'
- Mario Batali accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women
- Powerful appeals court judge accused of sexual misconduct
- Dylan Farrow: Why has Woody Allen been spared from allegations
- Republican Rep. Trent Franks will resign after alleged misconduct
- House looks to redraw harassment rules
- Lawrence: 'Let's all be silence breakers'
- Corey Feldman’s 1993 report of sexual assault found
- Photographer Bruce Weber accused of sexually harassing male model
- 'National Enquirer' editor accused of misconduct
- Amid misconduct claims, Conyers to retire
- John Hockenberry responds to sexual harassment claims
- Blake Farenthold used taxpayer money for sexual harassment settlement
- Blige 'really proud' of women speaking out over sexual assault
- Pelosi, Ryan: Rep. Conyers should resign
- Bette Midler: 'Geraldo Rivera groped me'
- Reaction on the streets of N.Y. to Matt Lauer firing
- Garrison Keillor fired over alleged improper behavior
- Andrew Kreisberg fired due to sexual harassment allegations
- Andy Rubin taking leave from Essential
- #MeToo: Women elevate Weinstein conversation
- Matt Lauer fired from 'Today'
- Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor pleads guilty to sexual assault charges
- Disney executive on leave over improper contact with staff
- Representative Conyers settled complaint over sexual misconduct
- Charlie Rose accused of groping, walking around naked
- Any type of sexual harassment can cause psychological harm
- Al Franken accused of kissing, groping
- 'Gossip Girl' star Ed Westwick accused by third woman of sexual assault
- Bipartisan sexual harassment bill introduced
- Paul Ryan wants mandated sexual harassment training for House members
- Mark Schwahn accused of sexual harassment by 'One Tree Hill' Cast
- More Cap. Hill Sexual Harassment Cases Revealed
- Report: Tom Sizemore accused of touching an 11-year-old actress
- New Roy Moore accuser says he groped her when she was 16
- George H.W. Bush accused of groping woman when she was 16
- #NoMoore: Why people are posting photos of themselves at 14
- How allegations against a CW producer point to another Hollywood issue
- Thousands to march in #MeToo rally
- Former 'ER' actor reveals he was sexually assaulted
- Third woman accuses Jeremy Piven of sexual misconduct
- Five women accuse Louis C.K. of inappropriate behavior
- Portia de Rossi: Steven Seagal unzipped pants at audition
- GOP reacts to Roy Moore sexual misconduct accusations
- Former TV anchor says Kevin Spacey groped her son
- Deeper look into Kevin Spacey sexual misconduct claims
- Dartmouth professors investigated for alleged sexual misconduct
- Kevin Spacey responds to harrassment allegations
- Nearly half of the women in America have been harassed on the job
- Why many Hollywood men are silent about sexual harassment
- NBC's Mark Halperin apologizes after sexual harassment accusations
- Robert Scoble resigns following sexual assault complaints
- More shakeup at Amazon Studios
- George H.W. Bush apologizes after accusation of improper touching
- Terry Richardson no longer welcomed at 'Vogue'
- The Weinstein Co. under investigation as it continues to struggle
- Bill O'Reilly is 'mad at God' over allegations of sexual harassment
- Dozens of women accuse director James Toback of harassment
- Reports: Model accuses David Blaine of rape
- McKayla Maroney says she was sexually abused by ex-Team USA physician
- Jennifer Lawrence tells horrifying harassment story
- Carrie Fisher sent cow tongue to producer after sexual assault claim
- Five-Star Recruit Emmitt Williams Charged With Sexual Battery, False Imprisonment
"For decades, women found that this (harassing) behavior often was the price of coming to work, it was entrenched, with high performers getting a free pass," says Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco-based legal support organization that focuses on women's issues.
So far, the recent avalanche of sexual harassment accusations has hit men across an array of industries, including entertainment, tech, media and finance.
Social media has helped fuel this revolution, allowing women to take their stories to the masses and often creating a public groundswell against some of the accused, said Wall Street veteran Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of female-focused financial planning and investment firm Ellevest.
"Women have a means today to tell these stories and to reinforce each other's stories and support each other's stories and support each other in a way that didn't exist when this happened to me," said Krawcheck, the former CEO of Smith Barney and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.
She recently described her experience with sexual harassment in her book Own It, describing how at Salomon Brothers, her investment bank colleagues placed photos of male genitalia on her desk every day in the late 1980s. The harassers never faced any consequences for their behavior, she said.
Harassment and gender bias claims were common in high finance.
For example, Smith Barney paid out $150 million to resolve disputes with women who were allegedly mistreated in the 1990s, several years before Krawcheck joined the company. In the famous case, one Smith Barney employee had been accused of constructing a party room in the basement of a New Jersey branch office that he dubbed the "Boom Boom Room," where male employees would joke about harassing women who complained about mistreatment.
The fact that many women have historically had their reputations smeared while men accused of harassment continued in their careers "just shows where women are in the power hierarchy," said Anne Vladeck, an attorney who represented Anucha Browne Sanders, the New York Knicks executive who accused Thomas of sexual harassment. "And that’s why you see repeat offenders."
'Imbalance of power'
Faced with a potential he-said, she-said duel with powerful male superiors, as well as the potential for their careers to implode, many women in the workplace have taken cash in exchange for total silence sealed by non-disclosure agreements. And in some cases, they were bound by arbitration clauses not to say anything.
“This is the definition of an imbalance of power,” says Brad Hoylman, a New York state senator who is pushing legislation that would void contractual provisions when pursuing legal remedies for harassment.
“We’ve seen time and time again that in a sexual harassment case, it is the executive who benefits while the employee is often dismissed, leaving in their wake coworkers who then may face the same unacceptable behavior," he says.
In years past, allegations of misconduct or harassment against business executives often did not see the light of day. Among those that did, it was not uncommon for the men involved to take a slight detour before continuing their careers — often to great success.
Oracle's Hurd: In a 2010 letter to Hurd, attorney Gloria Allred claimed the then-HP CEO subjected her client Jodie Fisher to kissing and unwanted touching. Fisher, a reality TV star-turned-event hostess hired by HP, was asked to spend the night in Hurd's hotel room, according to the letter, which also said Hurd expected "sexual favors in return for giving her work.”
After settling with Hurd, Fisher said there were "many inaccuracies" in the claims enumerated in her lawyer's letter. HP's board said Hurd didn't violate its harassment policies, but did say he ran afoul of its business standards using expense reports in connection to Fisher.
A month after Hurd resigned, Oracle founder Larry Ellison crowed about hiring Hurd, who now leads $204 billion-market cap Oracle as co-CEO (along with Safra Catz), where last year he took home $41 million in compensation. Oracle and Hurd declined to comment. Allred did not respond to a request for comment.
Starwood Hotels' Steven J. Heyer: In 2007, Heyer was removed as CEO of Starwood Hotels after the company’s board received an anonymous letter from a female employee saying the CEO had sent her suggestive and provocative e-mails, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Heyer denied the allegations, although an outside law firm hired by the Starwood board corroborated the woman’s claims, the Journal reported. Heyer remains on the board of financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard, which led to his tenure in 2010 as CEO of retailer Harry & David. Lazard declined to make Heyer available for comment.
Isiah Thomas. The Knicks executive was accused of sexually harassing Sanders. She alleged he called her a “b----” and a “ho” and later made sexual advances toward her. A federal jury found Thomas had aided and abetted a hostile work environment and fined the Knicks organization for firing her when she spoke up, according to court records. Sanders was awarded $11.6 million from Madison Square Garden Co. (MSG) and Knicks owner James Dolan but later settled for $11.5 million.
Thomas, who has maintained his innocence, is currently serving as a commentator on NBA TV and as president of WNBA team, the New York Liberty. NBA TV declined to comment.
“We continue to believe that Isiah did nothing wrong," MSG said in a statement. "In addition, the jury did not find any basis to award punitive damages against Isiah.”
Dov Charney: The CEO was soaring as the man behind trendy clothing company American Apparel when he was hit with a number of sexual harassment suits in 2011. The accusations included alleged incidents in which Charney met with the female employees wearing only a towel and then tried to have sex with them.
Charney told USA TODAY he successfully defended three and settled two, and continued to run the company. When the board fired him in 2014, it followed a suspension for charges of misconduct, including misuse of funds.
Charney has since started a new company, Los Angeles Apparel. He said American Apparel did not dismiss him for reasons related to harassment. “I embrace the regulations of the workplace, and I abhor sexual harassment,” he said.
American Apparel paid more than $3 million to settle sexual harassment and related claims against Charney and the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Martin Greenstein: In 1994, the high-powered Silicon Valley attorney and his celebrated firm, Baker & McKenzie, were hit with a then-record $7.1 million sexual harassment verdict (later reduced to $3.5 million) after Greenstein was found to have harassed secretary Rena Weeks. His actions, the suit claimed, included grabbing her breast while dropping M&Ms into her shirt pocket.
Greenstein was forced to resign from the global firm for unrelated issues, but did so a year after Weeks filed her lawsuit and after eight other women came forward claiming they had been subjected to Greenstein's harassment for years. Greenstein went on to found San Jose, Calif. trademark firm, TechMark, which he still runs. He did not respond to an email seeking comment.
What could happen
As more women share their harassment experiences, the hope among advocates is that men who observe such behavior will speak out as well.
“Real change needs to happen, but women cannot do it alone,” says Deborah Gillis, CEO of Catalyst, a global non-profit focusing on women in the workplace. “We need men to make the right decisions, not when caught in a torrential media downpour, or years later when the experiences of their daughters cause them to reconsider their ways.”
One way to ensure that cases of harassment make an impact on both an individual and a company is to revisit the often-required signing of non-disclosure agreements, said Sunu Chandy, legal director of the National Women’s Law Center.
Chandy notes that such documents can often keep women from connecting with others like them who are victims of the same person or company. “It’s swept under the rug, and they can’t find each other,” she said.
Arbitration agreements also keep harassment allegations out of the public eye — and the scrutiny of would-be employers. These agreements, which are common at many companies, stipulate that any disagreements must be handled out of court. That can often allow those guilty of harassment to continue on their career path unfettered by their deeds.
“In so many cases in the past, those kinds of agreements led to payoffs that then allowed companies to reward and celebrate the men in question,” said Cindy Gallop, an advertising industry advisor and founder of the healthy sexuality site, Make Love Not Porn. “Men may have been terminated, but because no one knew why, it allowed them to be snatched up elsewhere where they could continue harassing.”
Last summer, an attorney representing Susan Fowler — the former Uber engineer whose blog post detailing the toxic work atmosphere for women led to the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick — filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court. She urged the justices to consider whether employer arbitration agreements should be able to prevent employees from pursuing class action suits.
The sheer volume of new incidents of sexual harassment cropping up daily could well lead to a signal change in attitudes. But more importantly, advocates say the corporate trappings protecting male predatory behavior must be dismantled."Everything is on the table in a way that it was never before," says Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates. "It’s certainly a moment to seize, but it won’t happen on its own."