How to Handle Sexual Harassment as an Employer

sexual harassment workplace
 
The #MeToo movement exploded into America’s consciousness in the Fall of 2017, shaking executive offices and boardrooms across the country. Initially promoted in 2006 by women of color who had suffered sexual abuse, the movement became mainstream on social media after actress Alyssa Milano’s tweet, “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” The massive response to her tweet was unexpected and became the basis for a national movement.
 
Encouraged by movie stars recounting their experiences, millions of women (and some men) have written or spoken about their mistreatment by powerful men and women. For many, the extent of sexual harassment and abuse in our male-dominated society was a revelation as it became clear that no sphere — schools, sports organizations, government agencies, churches, or workplaces — has been immune to the powerful exploiting the powerless for generations.
 
The consequences of sexual misconduct are swift in today’s climate. As TIME magazine reports, “Nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.” Time’s Up, an advocacy group formed in 2018, focuses solely on sexual harassment and women’s issues in the workplace. One of their aims is to bring about additional federal and state legislation to punish companies that tolerate harassment.
 
While many companies have had sexual harassment policies in place for decades, this new atmosphere places managers under even stronger pressure to uphold these policies and provide employees with a safe, supportive working environment. If you’re a manager wondering how the #MeToo movement affects your responsibilities, here is what you need to know.

How Extensive Is the Problem?

WIRED magazine reports that the extent of harassment in the workplace is unknown due to the increased use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in settlement negotiations. Confidentiality provisions can hide the acts of serial abuse by powerful, wealthy men such as current President Donald Trump, former President Bill Clinton, and Roger Ailes for years. As former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who sued Ailes to escape the NDA she signed with Fox in 2013, told WIRED, these agreements “both silence the victim and fool our culture into thinking we’ve come so far when we have not.”
 
Women have silently endured sexual harassment in the workplace for generations. In previous generations, they rarely reported or spoke of these instances for fear they might lose their jobs or chances for promotion. A 2016 study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that three-quarters of working women had experienced unwanted sexual attention or sexual coercion (including physical touching) on the job, but less than 10% filed a formal complaint.
 
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Fake News

8 Ways to Determine If a News Story Is Reliable

fake newspaper trump
Fake News

During a 2017 interview on the Christian Trinity Broadcasting Network, President Donald Trump claimed his use of the word “fake” to describe the media was “one of the greatest of all terms [he’d] come up with.”

While he was mistaken about his creation of the phrase “fake news,” Trump’s frequent use of the epithet to describe news media has no doubt popularized the label — and may have even led to the phrase’s inclusion in the Dictionary.com database.

It may seem at times like fake news is an epidemic unique to our current political climate, but it’s actually been around for centuries. Let’s take a closer look at what it is, how it spreads, and what you can do to detect it.

What Is Fake News?

As its name suggests, fake news is false or counterfeit information reported in a newspaper, news periodical, or newscast.

Fake news differs from satire, farce, or hyperbole in that it’s a deliberate attempt to spread misinformation and manipulate public opinion for political, financial, or social gain. Inaccurate content is packaged to appear as fact, thus duping the audience into believing it’s true.

A story doesn’t have to be totally made-up to mislead; it’s enough to present subtle misrepresentations, critical omissions, or out-of-context information. Examples of recent misleading or false information include claims that:

  • President Barak Obama was born outside the U.S.
  • Senator Ted Cruz was bribed to pass legislation that put America’s public lands in the hands of the Koch brothers for mining and other business pursuits.
  • The Affordable Care Act established a “death panel” to determine healthcare benefits for the sick and elderly.
  • Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for President. (A later report revealed that the Pope supported Hillary Clinton.)
  • Millions of illegal voters voted in the 2016 presidential election.

All of the above have been labeled false by fact-checking organizations like PolitiFact, FactCheck, OpenSecrets, and Snopes, yet there are still those who believe these stories to be true.

Why does fake news spread so rapidly? As Craig Silverman of Neiman Reports writes in the Columbia Journalism Review: “[T]he forces of untruth have more money, more people, and… much better expertise. They know how to birth and spread a lie better than we know how to debunk one. They are more creative about it, and, by the very nature of what they’re doing, they aren’t constrained by ethics or professional standards. Advantage, liars.”

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Should the U.S. Adopt a V.A.T.?

value added tax wooden blocks coinsMany Americans do not understand how an American VAT might affect them, or its possible economic consequences on GDP and the national debt. Congress is currently exploring tax reform in order to spur economic growth and protect American businesses. Their proposal includes a controversial Border Adjustment Tax that some claim is a VAT in disguise.
 
What will be its effects if adopted?

What Is a Value-Added Tax?

In a 2010 interview with the Atlantic Magazine, William Gale, Co-Director of the Brookings Tax Policy Center, proposed a federal Value-Added Tax (VAT) as a way to raise government revenues, eliminate deficits, and pay down the national debt without harming economic growth.
 
While Gale was speaking during the early recovery of the Great Recession (2007-2009), some tax and economic experts proposed that tax reform should include an American version of the VAT. Columbia Law Professor Michael Graetz, in a 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal, claims that a VAT would:
 
1. free more than 150 million Americans from ever having to file tax returns or deal with the Internal Revenue Service;
 
2. cut our corporate income-tax rate to compete with the lowest in the world without shifting the burden away from those who can most afford to pay;
 
3. spur economic growth, increasing U.S. GDP by as much as 5% in the long run; and
 
4. stimulate jobs and investments and induce companies to base their headquarters in the U.S. rather than abroad.
 
In many ways, a value-added tax is similar to a national sales tax. Ultimately, both are based on the consumption of a product and add to the final cost to the consumer. The primary difference between a sales tax and a VAT is that the former is collected on the final sale to the consumer, while the latter is paid during each stage of the supply chain. In other words, the latter is a combination of direct and indirect taxes.

What Is Sales Tax?

Sales tax is added to the purchase price when the consumer purchases the goods. The retailer selling the product collects the tax and remits the proceeds to the taxing authority. The buyer is aware of the extra cost since it applies to the purchase price of the product. For example, a product selling for $100 subject to a 10% tax costs the consumer $110 – $10 in tax plus $100 to the retailer.
 
Currently, the U.S. does not have a federal sales tax, but 45 states now employ them as a revenue source. In addition to the state sales tax, many counties and cities tack on additional sales tax to the state charge. According to the Tax Foundation, combined sale tax rates range from a low of 1.76% in Alaska to 9.45% in Tennessee. JustFacts calculated that sales tax collections in the United States are about one-third of the taxes (over $600 billion) collected by state and local governments.
 
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is the U.S. Tax System Fair?

income tax return paperwork desk“Congress, Congress! Don’t tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree.” This 1930s ditty reflects the sentiments of most Americans today as Congress once again tries to simplify and reform the 74,608-page Federal Tax Code and Federal taxes. Their task is particularly challenging since about 40% of citizens feel that they pay more than their fair share, according to Pew Research. The groups that don’t pay enough include corporations (80% agree), wealthy people (78% agree), and poor people (40% agree).
 
Overall, 56% of Americans feel that the existing system is either not too fair or not fair at all. But how exactly does the Federal tax system work? Is it truly unfair?

Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Taxes and Fairness

To answer the question “Is the U.S. tax system fair?” we must first explore:

  1. The Necessity of Taxes. The American colonists’ complaint of “no taxation without representation” was misleading. According to historian Richard T. Ely, “One of the things against which our forefathers in England and the American colonies contended was not against oppressive taxation, but against the payment of taxes at all.” For decades, the American government relied on excise taxes, tariffs, customs duties, and public land sales. Are income taxes necessary?
  2.  

  3. Our Current Tax System. What taxes do Americans pay? According to one blog, Americans pay 97 different taxes each year. We pay taxes on the income we earn, the property we own, and the goods and services we buy. The government taxes gifts we make to others, assets we leave to our families, bad habits in which we indulge, and ill-gotten criminal gains. Who are the winners and losers of America’s existing tax system?
  4.  

  5. The Difference Between Statutory and Effective Tax Rates. Misperceptions complicate understanding and agreement – especially those surrounding the Federal tax system. A 2017 poll found about a third of Americans claim to understand a “fair” or a “great deal” about U.S. tax policies but are unable to reach agreement on basic facts, such as whether the average Federal income tax rate is higher or lower than other Western democracies. This lack of understanding fosters disagreement about policy and complicates reform efforts.
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  7. The Definition of Fairness. John Stuart Mill, in his “Principles of Political Economy,” wrote, “If anyone bears less than his fair share of the burden, some other person must suffer more than his share, and the alleviation to the one is not, on the average, so great a good to him as the increased pressure upon the other is an evil. Equality of taxation, therefore, as a maxim of politics, means equality of sacrifice.” Should taxes be proportional or progressive? Are they solely a revenue source or a method of social justice and income redistribution?

 
The complexity of the tax code, the machinations of those with special interests, and the sheer scope of administering, paying, and collecting taxes promotes misunderstandings, myths, and even malevolence about the role of taxes in society and the character of those charged with their administration.
 
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