ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Television titan Matt Lauer’s firing from “The Today Show” is the latest fallout from a wave of sexual harassment allegations.
Now experts are weighing in on the phenomenon.
Employment Attorney Steve Modica says he says he’s not surprised NBC News fired Lauer immediately.
“I think in the age of social media, and the age of the public attention particularly right now, many entities understand that if they don’t take action quickly, they run the risk of having an adverse public reaction, which is certainly not in their commercial interest,” Modica said.
He says the age of social media can also mean more evidence in a case.
“Litigating these cases was complicated because often there was no physical evidence to support any claims of harassment. But now in today’s world, it’s very different,” Modica said. “And I think one of the positive things we see is certainly folks feel emboldened, and feel protected, and feel able to make complaints they weren’t able to make before. The flip side is there’s always that opportunity for someone to make that complaint that is not correct or is not accurate. And I think there will be a very small percentage of folks that will take advantage of that and do exactly that.”
Modica says it’s also important to distinguish between assault and harassment.
“The one thing I find troubling about that trend is that “Me Too” kind of lumps everything from sexual assault—which is a crime—to someone feeling uncomfortable in the workplace because someone complimented them on their appearance.”
Sexual assault and harassment services organizations say high-profile cases like Matt Lauer’s are likely contributing in an increase in demand for their support.
Mary Jo Marino of Restore Sexual Assault Services said her organization is on track to work with 3,000 people this year.
“With sexual assault being such a topic of conversation in the community both locally and at the state and national level, it has been very triggering for people,” said Marino. “So people that have felt a sense of healing and peace with an assault that took place for them are hearing about information and it’s leading them to call Restore or services like Restore for additional support.”
But Marino says she hopes a climate of coming forward is not just a trend, but a movement.
“Talking about this issue is the only way that we stand a chance at eradicating it. And so I hope people come forward more and tell their stories, whether it be on a public level or calling up Restore. We’re here to support anyone who’s been in a situation that made them feel uncomfortable. And we hope they would feel comfortable reaching out to us so that we can help guide them on their healing journey,” said Marino.
Restore’s 24-hour confidential hotline is 585-546-2777 in Monroe County, and 1-800-527-1757 in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming Counties.