February 5, 2021

A Personal Account of Workplace Harassment Highlights How Common the Behavior Is

If Jennifer Barnett’s recent Medium piece sounds woefully familiar, that’s because it tells the same kind of story we hear about all the time. In fact, many of the discrimination cases we take on follow very similar outlines. An employee, even a very senior one, is intimidated, berated, and subjected to mistreatment at the hands of a manager or executive, and has trouble sorting through the proper legal response to the situation. 

From our perspective, it’s entirely understandable that Barnett’s story isn’t unique and it’s a major reason why we found her post so compelling. It describes, in detail, many of the experiences our clients have when facing troubling issues like the ones Barnett describes. 

We are well aware that workplace conflict is complicated. An employee is forced to weigh their career advancement or the support of colleagues and friends against a potentially acrimonious legal case. Additionally, employees are often not experts in employment and labor law, putting them in the awkward position of trying to figure out what is merely part of the work culture and what is harassment or discrimination. 

Another thing Barnett’s story demonstrates is how difficult it is to switch from accommodating workplace harassment to pushing back against it. Once you’re deep in it, it becomes even scarier to think about contacting a lawyer. 

And even when you do confront discrimination and harassment, as Barnett’s story shows, employers can just as easily double down on protecting or denying the problem as they can rectify it. Barnett’s harasser, for example, remained in a position of power in her profession and continued to be offered platinum editorial jobs in prestige media. It should be noted you don’t have to work at a prestigious company or be some glowing success like Barnett to be discriminated against or harassed. Workplace harassment exists in every profession and at every pay-level. 

We applaud Barnett’s willingness to write about such difficult problems and encourage people to recognize that being made to feel uncomfortable or intimidated at work is a problem you don’t have to face alone.

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