Freelancers Fend for Themselves Against Sexual Harassment
In traditional workplaces, there is protocol to report sexual harassment. See Reporting Sexual Harassment. According to Forbes, the freelance workforce in the United States is made up of 53 million people, and the music industry is fueled by freelance workers.
Reporting harassment is challenging, and victims struggle with the fear of repercussions for speaking out or disbelief. Freelancers don’t necessarily have access to corporate resources such as HR and can make the experience even more hopeless. Also, many sexual harassment statutes require a tangible adverse employment action. Freelancers have the additional burden of proving that they were no longer contracted, or pay scale and other benefits were withheld as a result of harassment. The challenges for freelancers is demonstrating that a traditional employer-employee relationship exists.
Freelancers should keep records of harassment, as it occurs even if they never report it. (you can’t go back and re-create harassment records after the fact). See Reporting Sexual Harassment for records you should keep.
You should bring up harassment to your client. According to Charles Krugel, a Chicago-based HR counselor and management-side labor and employment lawyer, harassers are “usually not looking for a fight.”
If the harassment does not stop, you can report it to the EEOC or contact a lawyer, but make sure you have let your client remedy the situation first.
Sexual harassment of freelancers is a real problem that will only become more important as the freelance economy continues to grow.
Federal Protections do not adequately protect freelancers from sexual harassment. Also, action is needed at the state-level. New York is working to pass legislation that will address the gaps in protections for freelancers. New York City Council member Brad Lander is currently working on passing non-discrimination legislation that would protect freelancers from workplace discrimination in New York City. If the bill passes as it’s currently written, “sexual harassment to a freelancer would be treated the same by the law as it would sexual harassment to a full-time employee.”
Action # 1
Write your local, state, and federal legislatures asking them to draft and pass legislation that will protect freelance workers from sexual harassment. Freelancers should be treated the same by law in regards to sexual harassment as full-time employees.
Encourage the community that you work in to adopt standards based on The Chicago Theatre Standards. You can find more information at #NotInOurHouse
The Chicago Theatre Standards is a voluntary tool for self-governance that seeks to nurture communication, safety, respect, and accountability of participants at all levels of theatrical production.
Its mission is to create:
- Spaces free of harassment, whether it be sexual, or based on race, gender, religion, ethnic origin, color, or ability;
- Nurturing environments that allow even-greater challenge to ourselves, our audience, and our communities; risk of mind and body, and freedom to create theatre that represents the full range of human experience;
- A common understanding of practices for theatre environments, including written, reproducible standards available for no cost
- Provide support through mentorship and collaboration through online communication and community outreach.
Impact Fund The mission is to provide grants, advocacy, and education to support impact litigation on behalf of marginalized communities seeking economic, environmental and social justice.
Resources for Freelancers in the UK
If you experience sexual harassment as a freelancer in the UK, here are some of the actions you can take:
Report it to the company
Many organisations in the UK, especially large and multi-national organisations, have harassment policies that apply to freelancers as well as staff members. All companies should have a disciplinary policy and process.
Contact your trade union.
BECTU is the trade union in the UK for the media and entertainment industry, the MU (Musician’s Union) covers musicians. Both have policies regarding discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and can advise on legalities.
BECTU Women’s Health and Safety policy https://www.bectu.org.uk/advice-resources/library/1884
MU support and guidance for members facing sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at work https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/News/2017/Oct/The-MU-is-here-to-support-you-if-you-face-inapprop
Make a claim to the Employment Tribunal.
If you are in England, Wales or Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 protects you from harassment at work by your employer or colleagues. Harassment, including sexual harassment, is classed as a form of unlawful discrimination under the act.
From May 6, 2017, you will need to notify Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) before you can make a claim to an employment tribunal. You no longer have to pay tribunal fees to make tribunal claims.
Resources – England and Wales
Resources – Scotland
Resources – Northern Ireland
The equality laws are different for Northern Ireland. The Equality Commission in Northern Ireland has details of current equality legislation. Citizens Advice Northern Ireland also has details about what to do if you have a problem at work
Report it to the police
If the harassment is, or becomes, physical, you can also report it to the police. Sexual assault is a criminal offence and should be reported to the police regardless of whether or not your employer takes action, or you plan to pursue a tribunal claim.
Reporting a rape or sexual assault – England and Wales
Support for rape and sexual assault – Scotland
Reporting sexual violence and abuse – Police Service of Northern Ireland
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