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Cuomo accusations spark larger conversation about workplace sexual harassment

"It's really important that we continue to have the conversation, continue to say these are unacceptable behaviors and continue to really hold people accountable."

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many people have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment in the workplace, especially in recent years.

"A big piece of this that's been coming in the news more often as we hear more and more of these stories is really that collaboration of individuals coming together and telling their stories can be super validating," said Lindsey Rickard, the vice president of training and innovation at BestSelf Behavioral Health.

However, for others who've experienced workplace sexual harassment, learning of new allegations can be triggering. 

Rickard explained, "We just have to be very aware that each person's experience is different. So just being aware if we are having these conversations, or if we want to talk about our own experiences, that's great. We never want to force somebody else to have to talk about their experience if they're not ready to do so. That could actually cause more damage for the other person."

It can be hard to tell how common workplace sexual harassment really is because not every case is reported. But, we still can get a good idea of its impact. 

Rickard told 2 On Your Side, "Before we actually started this interview I had called one of my friends up just to tell her I was running a little late and we just talked quickly about how we honestly don't know someone in our friend group who hasn't experienced something like this." 

Through a legal lens, attorney R. Scott Deluca can also speak to the frequency. 

"I would say in a private workplace, the claims come up with a fair frequency and that's why I'm a busy attorney," said Deluca, a senior counsel attorney at Kavinoky Cook LLP.

As more cases come up, Rickard stressed it's important to remember that each person's experience and the way they handle it varies. 

"We can't control obviously people on social media or on Twitter or on Facebook, what comments they're gonna make and what they're gonna leave, but what we can do is continue to have the discussions, continue to talk about how the behavior is unacceptable, continue to talk about how this is something that shouldn't have been silenced for a really long time and how it does negatively impact individuals," Rickard said.

For people dealing with this type of harassment, there are options. 

"If you're experiencing it, talk to HR, talk to a supervisor, find somebody," Rickard said. "If you don't feel comfortable there, find outside resources like through the MeToo Movement or a trusted friend or somebody outside who will really take this seriously." 

Deluca said when necessary there are also legal actions. 

"When it comes to workplace harassment, sexual harassment in particular, the keys to the kingdom are showing that it's severe and pervasive and that's the standard that the Supreme Court and the United States has set down," said Deluca.

He added, "That's what makes it unlawful when it's affecting how you work and your workplace and your ability to get your work done or not wanting to be at work because you fear being subjected to this type of conduct." 

Rickard told 2 On Your Side it's important we continue to have these conversations and hold people accountable. 

"We talk about this conversation when we're talking about empowering through empathy and empowering people to work through these situations," Rickard said. "But I think maybe the conversation should be, instead, how about we talk how we avoid having a person in this situation in the first place. How do we train individuals and raise them in our society and culture that these behaviors are completely unacceptable and shouldn't happen in the first place." 

Learn more about BestSelf Behavioral Health here

Learn more about the MeToo Movement here

Learn more about Crisis Services here

Find information on workplace sexual harassment from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission here