The conversation around sexual misconduct in the office is chang - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

The conversation around sexual misconduct in the office is changing

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

One Chattanooga law firm estimates it has seen sexual harassment cases more than doubled recently.

Attorney Harry Burnette said laws prohibiting sexual harassment have been around for decades, but now he believes we will see those laws enforced much more often.

"The days of the 1950's, in which this is absolutely socially acceptable behavior, are no longer here," urged Burnette.

Burnette was discussing sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s a topic making headlines after people like film executive Harvey Weinstein, CBS This Morning's Charlie Rose and most recently, NBC Today's Matt Lauer were all fired from their positions after various accusations of sexual misconduct.

Channel 3 sat down with attorney Burnette to talk about how the conversation around sexual misconduct in the office is changing.

"Women in the environment have reached the point that they say, 'We're not going to take it anymore!'" urged Burnette.

He said federal and state laws have been around for decades prohibiting sexual harassment, but even he remembers a time when victims were urged not to speak out.

"At some points in my legal career it was frowned on,” Burnette explained. “That's just something they need to put up with."

Burnette said it's crucial to make sure everyone in the workplace has an understanding of what is acceptable in the office. For example, making sure employees know if the company has a policy against relationships between co-workers. However, defining sexual harassment on its own isn't always easy. It comes down to one key factor, whether or not comments or advances are wanted.

"Sexual harassment is somewhat in the eye of the beholder," explained Burnette. "It's an unwanted touching or comments."

Burnette said it's a changing culture, "People have a stronger sense of what's right and what's wrong than what they perhaps once had."

Workplaces are not required by law to give employees sexual harassment training, however, Burnette said it is strongly encouraged.

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