Tuesday, June 19, 2018
This open statement on sexual harassment law by leading law scholars includes 10 principles important to understanding sexual harassment as well as concrete proposed reforms tailored to each principle.
Law Professors Rachel Arnow-Richman, Ian Ayres, Susan Bisom-Rapp, Tristin Green, Rebecca Lee, Ann McGinley, Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Nicole Porter, Vicki Schultz, and Brian Soucek
We, the undersigned legal scholars and educators with expertise in employment discrimination law, seek to offer a new vision and agenda for eliminating sexual harassment and advancing workplace equality. We are inspired by the #MeToo movement: The courage and sheer number of people who have come forward to report harassment and abuse, the cross-race, cross-class solidarity among activists, the media’s in-depth and sustained coverage, and the public’s willingness to hear and believe so many victims all suggest this is a watershed moment for change.
Inspired by recent events and renewed activism, we wish to contribute to the current momentum by broadening the conversation about the law. We know that law alone cannot create change. Yet we know also that change rarely occurs without the law. For over forty years, employees, activists, educators, and policymakers have looked to the legal system to address sexual harassment in the workplace. These efforts have produced important theories and information, steps forward and setbacks, that yield important lessons for the future. Title VII and other existing laws against discrimination provide an important tool in the fight against sexual harassment, one that will require continued leadership from enforcement agencies. But broader reforms are needed to address the conditions in which harassment flourishes and to make the legal system more responsive to employees. To reduce sexual harassment and move toward a fairer, more inclusive workplace and society for people of all sexes and genders, we offer the following principles and proposals for reform gained from years of working for change within the law.
Ten Principles for Addressing Sexual Harassment
Principle #1: The problem with workplace harassment is sexism, not sexual desire.
Principle #2: Harassment includes many forms of sexism and abuse, not just sexual misconduct.
Principle #3: Sexual harassment is directly linked to sex segregation and inequality.
Principle #4: Same-sex harassment and LGBTQ harassment are prohibited sex discrimination, too.
Principle #5: Race-based harassment and intersectional race/sex harassment and discrimination against women and men of color must be specifically addressed.
Principle #6: Broader occupational and other structural vulnerabilities must be reduced.
Principle #7: Banning all sexual behavior is not a solution and can even be harmful to the cause of eliminating harassment.
Principle #8: Protection against retaliation for victims of harassment and people who stand up for them must be strengthened.
Principle #9: Victims of harassment should have the same recourse to the legal system as other victims of discrimination.
Principle #10: Prevention and remedies must move beyond punishing individual wrongdoers to encourage systemic institutional change.