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Sexual harassment in the workplace violates federal, state, and local laws, and yet the conduct continues to contaminate our working lives. Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1998 landmark rulings in the Faragher and Ellerth cases, companies have issued policies banning the conduct, have established training exercises to help employees identify and report misconduct, and have refashioned their internal complaint procedures to provide effective remedies. Yet the misconduct still persists seemingly unabated.

Perhaps one reason that harassment remains so widespread is that employees and employers are up against a weighty foe—overtly sexual messages that are force-fed daily in our society on the Internet, social media, TV, movies, in print publications and advertising. Those messages have the effect of convincing generations of employees that what passes for everyday sexual flirtation isn’t a problem. These messages are hard to avoid and shape our attitudes and behaviors without us even realizing it. So how do employers eliminate sexual harassment from their 9 a.m.-5 p.m. workspace when it is so pervasive in our lives between 5 p.m.-9 a.m.? This is not an easy switch to flip at the door of your company.

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