There is most certainly power in numbers. This fact was curtly evinced this week by the revelations of Bill O'Reilly's multiple sexual harassment cases. Lisa Bloom, a civil rights lawyer, said this week that there are, “not one, not two, not three, not four, not five but six," alleged sexual harassment cases against Bill O'Reilly.
And she, on behalf of her client Dr. Wendy Walsh, is calling for an independent investigation into the practices that allowed such cases to accumulate unnoticed over time.
Dr. Wendy Walsh is a psychologist who worked on O'Reilly's show “The O'Reilly Factor" as an expert on a 2013 segment called “Are We Crazy."
Walsh had aspirations of a more frequent contribution to FOX - the network the show is hosted on - and voiced these goals to O'Reilly. According to Walsh, the show host encouraged the possibility of an advancement in her career at a dinner one evening. When the dinner ended, Walsh said O'Reilly asked her back to his hotel suite. Upon her refusal, he turned “hostile," she said, and told her she could forget any advice he had given her. In short, he would not be aiding her with her career.
O'Reilly has been suffering an onslaught of bad publicity and an exodus of advertisers since this New York Times report was published last week, explicating the long history of sexual harassment throughout his career, and the pay-off culture rampant within FOX's ranks. In fact, just last year Roger Ailes, former CEO of the network, was fired for the alleged sexual assault against dozens of women. “The culture still lives on," says Bloom, even in the wake of his departure and the scandal attached. Thus, the reason she is calling for an indecent investigation.
Below, SWAAY talks to Bloom about her involvement in the case and her opinion about the sexual harassment O'Reilly has allegedly been committing for many years.
1. Tell us a little about your career - why law?
I've always had a big mouth and a passion to right social justice wrongs. In college I was national debating champion. What else was I going to do?
2. How was it coming up through the legal ranks as a woman? Did you encounter any difficulties along the way?
Of course. The usual gamut of old guys underestimating my intelligence, arrogant superiors sexually harassing me, a partner once saying to an old male client I was meeting with, "would you rather have a male attorney?" (The client said he was happy with me, thank you very much, and later I took the partner aside and told him that wasn't cool.)
Lisa Bloom(L) and Wendy Walsh(R). Photo courtesy of NY Daily NewsI complained about the sexual harassment each time of the three times I experienced it, either directly to the inappropriate [point of contact] or to Human Resources, and it always got resolved to my satisfaction. I insisted on it. I was nervous like anyone else. But I could not bear to think that if I did not complain, these guys would do it to other women who would be even more afraid than I was.
3. When and why did you decide to start your own firm?
After eight years hosting my own show on Court TV (2001-2009), I was ready to return to my hometown of Los Angeles, write books and start my own firm. Everywhere I've ever worked I thought I could manage the place better than the bosses were managing it. Now was my chance to see if that was true. I wanted to fight for justice for people and causes I believe in. Luckily my husband is a skilled, successful entrepreneur so he has always advised on the business side: when to hire, when to fire, when to take a new lease for a bigger office. I oversee the ten lawyers we have now, decide which cases to take, handle the big ones myself, and all the media in our many high profile cases, because that's tricky, and fun for me. It works for us.
"This network is the Bill Cosby of corporate America."
4. You've had a pretty lucrative career - what's your recipe for success?
5. You list Bill O'Reilly as a TV personality that has interviewed you - how is it now representing someone in a case against him?
Delightful. He is a despicable human being who has been exceedingly rude to me, and who has hurt many women. He deserves everything he is getting, from the New York Times exposing his many settlements, to my client Dr. Wendy Walsh and me speaking out, to advertisers fleeing. Karma's a bitch, Bill.
6. Have you dealt with sexual harassment cases in the past?
Yes, I've been doing discrimination and harassment cases for thirty years. I currently handle many sexual harassment cases. My law firm's core work is civil rights work: gender, race, LGBTQ rights, disability, you name it, we fight for it.
7. When did you and Ms. Walsh meet?
We both have appeared frequently on CNN and HLN, and I think we met there, years ago. We became friends. I was pleased to attend a charity event where she was honored for her domestic violence work, and she came as my date to an Emmy awards gala. We both have been single moms and believe in empowering women. So when a NY Times reporter asked if she'd tell her story, I encouraged her to do it, and promised I'd stand by her as she did. I couldn't be prouder of how she's handled herself.
8. Does Fox's ineptitude dealing with these cases suitably reflect the entertainment industry's stance on sexual harassment as a whole?
Sexual harassment is rampant in the entertainment industry, but Fox News is the worst I am aware of. Dozens and dozens of women, tens of millions in payouts, and no end in sight: until we make it end.
9. You said in a recent press conference that FOX believes it can simply pay off woman to keep harassers in their jobs - are other corporations indulging in this behavior?
Many companies pay sexual harassment settlements -- I've negotiated many, nothing wrong with that outcome. But nearly every company will fire a man who continues to sexually harass women after the first incident. There's just too much liability to keep him on.
10. How do the President's comments on O'Reilly's innocence affect your case?
Trump did not say he disbelieved the allegations -- he said that O'Reilly did nothing wrong. I think that was honest. Trump does not think sexual harassment is wrong. How disgusting that this man is President, that he stands for his fellow alleged harasser, instead of for the women of America. Trump is the most overtly misogynist president in my lifetime, maybe in all of US history. Hold on to those pussy hats, ladies. We're going to need them.
"I don't think Bill did anything wrong." -Donald Trump
11. What, in your opinion, should happen to O'Reilly and how can this case be used to set a precedent for workplace sexual harassment cases in the future?
He should be fired. That may happen. The women who complained and were then driven out should be brought back, and Fox News should apologize to all of them. That will never happen
If this powerful moneymaker is toppled because of his treatment of women, it will send a powerful message that women's rights matter. Stay tuned.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.