Waging a war on sexual harassment at work

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Experts recommend ways to foster workplaces free from sexual harassment.

#MeToo took the world by storm in 2017.

The hashtag has become a way of supporting survivors of sexual violence, as well as a battle cry for reform. #MeToo has brought workplace sexual harassment to the forefront of the legal scene and forced employers to take concrete action to end sexual violence.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination based on sex where the harasser and the victim can be of any gender. Additionally, Title VII holds employers accountable for their efforts to maintain a workplace free from sexual harassment, including stopping the harassment once employers are notified of its presence.

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, an action reaches the level of unlawful sexual harassment when it is “so frequent or so severe as to create a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse decision on the matter. employment ”, such as dismissal. employment or demotion.

Apart from the federal directive, some state laws also protect workers from sexual harassment. For example, the California legislature has enacted laws that are stricter than other state and federal laws to address sexual harassment in the workplace. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and provides protection for all workers, including volunteers, independent contractors and interns.

Under California law, employers must take preventative measures to end sexual harassment. At the very least, employers should have a policy in place on sexual harassment.

Other state legislatures are working to strengthen the channels for reporting victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Lawmakers in states such as Arizona, Rhode Island and Massachusetts have sought to pass legislation to crack down on the use of nondisclosure agreements in workplace harassment cases to create better reporting structures. .

In this week’s Saturday seminar, experts examine regulatory improvements that could end sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • In an article published in the Boston University Law Journal, Stephanie Bornstein of the University of Florida Levin College of Law argues that sexual harassment disclosure requirements, similar to the disclosure mechanisms in securities law, could help better enforce anti-discrimination regulations in the workplace. job. She recommends requiring disclosure of wages and promotions to help close the gender and race pay gap, as well as harassment resolution disclosures to change workplace cultures. Bornstein cautions, however, of the possible drawbacks of these approaches, such as privacy concerns, token compliance, and First Amendment issues.
  • Both sexual violence opponents and workers’ health advocates do not use a holistic perspective to understand workplace violence, says Katherine Lippel of the University of Ottawa in an article in the Oxford University Human Rights Hub Journal. To protect all workers from sexual violence, Lippel recommends legislation for occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation. Lippel suggests that workplaces can marginalize or ignore legislation aimed only at violence against women. To avoid this problem, Lippel proposes to draft legislation that protects everyone against workplace violence.
  • In an article by The Georgetown Journal of Gender and Law, Rachel Farkas and several co-authors advise lawyers who file or defend a sexual harassment complaint to be aware of differences between federal and state law. Farkas and his co-authors explain that some state laws follow Title VII, but many state laws provide better protection for those who experience sexual harassment in the workplace. Farkas and his co-authors highlight how new state laws and judicial interpretations of sexual harassment in the workplace have expanded protections for people with different sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
  • In an article for Colombian Law Review, Daniel Hemel of University of Chicago Law School and Dorothy Lund of Gould Law School at the University of Southern California argue that corporate law could help address sexual misconduct in the workplace. In order to encourage companies to take better preventive measures, Hemel and Lund propose to take legal action against company trustees who commit sexual harassment. Hemel and Lund explain that holding corporations accountable for harassing acts of their employees, even if the law protects defendants from personal liability, will require managers to more effectively protect victims at work.
  • In an article to appear in the South Carolina Law Journal, Galia Schneebaum of Harry Radzyner Law School discusses anti-harassment regulations in the workplace and how to clarify the legal framework for bullying and harassment in the workplace as a legal offense. She argues that workplace bullying regulations are separate from sexual harassment regulations because U.S. sexual harassment laws are based on social discrimination and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Schneebaum explains how the safety framework , used to minimize bullying as a physical harm, and the Dignity Framework, which focuses on insult and humiliation, are insufficient to address the contours of workplace bullying. She recommends understanding workplace bullying as an “abuse of power”.

The Saturday Seminar is a weekly feature that aims to put in written form the type of content that would be conveyed in a live seminar involving regulatory experts. Every week, Regulatory review publishes a brief overview of a selected regulatory topic, then distills recent research and academic writing on that topic.


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