Local Experts Talk Basics Amid Workplace Harassment Allegations

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- As more public figures join the growing lists of people fired for allegations of improper behavior in the workplace, local experts are discussing what that may mean for those in our area with the possibility of more people coming forward.

"It's power in numbers" Monie Johnson, Arkansa Coalition Against Sexual Assault executive director said. "We're seeing a lot of that. We have people that are well known actually going ahead and taking a stand."

But what does that mean for people who don't work in the spotlight?

"They have to go an inform the employer," Joe Byars, attorney said. "However the employer has that set up, whether they have [human resources] or a grievance process, they have to speak out."

Byars explained that he sees similar cases locally.

"The circumstances vary widely," Byars said. "It doesn't have to be female, it can be male."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of harassment or misconduct at work and the employer has not taken action, lawyers advise reporting it immediately.

"The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) only allows 180 days from the last active discrimination or act of sexual harassment to be able to bring a charge," Byars said. "If you wait too long, your claim becomes too stale to be able to take any action."

Lawyers said that many victims are afraid to come forward because they fear the employer or other employees may try to get even, but there are laws that protect you from retaliation.

According to the EEOC, nearly 13,000 sex-based harassment allegations were recorded last year.

For more information about harassment in the workplace or how you can get help, visit the EEOC's website.