Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Will Tort Law Have its MeToo Moment

Martha Chamallas, Will Tort Law Have its #MeToo Moment?, Journal of Tort Law (forthcoming)

Using tort law’s treatment of claims for domestic violence and sexual assault as examples, this essay identifies prominent features of a feminist historical approach to law to demonstrate how gender inequality is reproduced over time, despite changes in legal doctrine. When informed by feminist theory, history can function as a critique of past and present regimes of inequality, highlighting the various techniques of exclusion and marginalization that emerge to prevent law from redressing serious, recurring injuries suffered disproportionately by women. The essay explores two such techniques: sexual exceptionalism that treats gender-related torts differently than other harms and the adoption of ostensibly neutral rules that have a disparate impact on women and marginalized groups. The essay speculates as to whether the #MeToo movement can provide the momentum to produce a break from the past, particularly with respect to third-party claims holding employers and other institutional defendants responsible for sexualized harms.

September 18, 2018 in Theory, Violence Against Women, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 10, 2018

Are Breastfeeding Protection Laws Anti-Feminist?

Dara Purvis, Are Breastfeeding Protections Anti-Feminist? JOTWELL, reviewing Meghan Boone, Lactation Law, ___ Calif. L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2018), available at SSRN.

If one reason that women have been held back in the workforce is difficulty reconciling caregiving responsibilities and work-related duties, then one obvious method of reform should be to require employers to accommodate caregiving, particularly those forms of caregiving that are disproportionately or exclusively fulfilled by women. For example, because a typical full-time work schedule is not conducive to a new mother’s schedule of breastfeeding or pumping breast milk, many women are forced to prioritize work over breastfeeding. In response, both state and federal laws require employers of a certain size to accommodate new mothers returning from maternity leave by providing them with breaks and a suitably private area in the workplace to pump breast milk, allowing them to return to work and continue to feed their babies breast milk. Surely a win for feminism and facilitating women’s employment choices, right?

 

In her forthcoming article Lactation Law, Meghan Boone answers no, at least as such statutes are currently written. From the opening paragraphs, she poses a startlingly counterintuitive example of a Maine teacher whose child was stillborn. In the following days, she began lactating, an understandably traumatic process for someone mourning a stillbirth. As she grieved, she learned of nonprofit organizations that collected donated breast milk and distributed it to babies who would otherwise not be fed breast milk and decided to participate. The school where she worked, however, refused to accommodate her pumping breast milk because the Maine statute that required employers to accommodate lactation only applied to mothers nursing or pumping milk for their own children. Because the teacher’s breast milk would be donated to other babies, the school was not required to accommodate her desire to pump breast milk while she was at work.

 

From this difficult puzzle, Boone identifies a troubling feature of statutes protecting the right to pump breast milk at work or breastfeed in public: such laws do not protect women qua women. They protect infants, justified by the current medical opinion that infants fed breast milk enjoy health advantages that are not available to formula-fed infants. The significance of breastfeeding and pumping breast milk, in other words, has little to do with the lactating woman. Rather, lactation is a service that a mother provides to her child.***

 

This may seem like a distinction without a difference, but Boone persuasively outlines how legal protections for lactation reject decisions that characterize breastfeeding as an autonomy interest that shapes women’s decisions about how to mother, and instead underscore societal perceptions of what mothers should be.

 

On this reading, Boone argues, the current state of lactation law further entrenches gendered expectations, which, at least in some respects, is worse than having no lactation law at all. Existing statutes reinforce the idea of breastfeeding as something that women should do if they are the right kind of mother, but not for too long, and not in ways that fall outside of the norm. Boone proposes fundamental changes to lactation law: focusing on the physiological experience of lactation rather than a maternal relationship, removing the justification tied to an infant biologically related to the lactating woman, and recognizing that promoting women’s health is also a public goal supported by lactation law. Her reforms are a thoughtful and comprehensive solution to the deep-rooted issues with current flawed protections of lactating women. My only quandary is that Boone’s demonstration of the gender and maternal stereotypes embodied in lactation law is so thoroughly persuasive that it makes the prospect of reform seem very unlikely.

September 10, 2018 in Family, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Is MeToo Only a Social Movement or a Legal Movement Too?

L. Camille Hebert, Is "MeToo" Only a Social Movement or a Legal Movement Too?, 22 Employee Rights & Employment Policy J. (2018)

This essay discusses some of the effects of the “MeToo” movement as a social movement, bringing issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment to the forefront. The essay then raises the question of whether that movement might also have implications for the law of sexual harassment. The essay discusses three elements of the law of sexual harassment—the “because of sex” requirement, the requirement that the harassment be subjectively hostile and objectively severe or pervasive, and the standard for employer liability for harassment—and explores the way that the “MeToo” movement might affect the way in which courts apply those elements. The essay then discusses other ways in which the law relevant to sexual harassment claims has been and may be changed by the movement, including with respect to mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements and nondisclosure agreements.

September 4, 2018 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, August 27, 2018

Study Documents Persistent Employment Discrimination Against Older Women and Ineffective Legal Redress

Joanna Song McLaughlin, Falling Between the Cracks: Discrimination Laws and Older Women

Theories and evidence suggest that older women may experience unique discrimination for being both old and female in the workplace. To provide remedy for this type of discrimination – known as intersectional discrimination – legal scholars argue that age and sex discrimination laws must be used jointly and acknowledge intersectional discrimination (age-plus-sex or sex-plus-age discrimination) as a separate cause of action. Nonetheless, in general, courts have declined to do so even though older women are protected under both age and sex discrimination laws. This raises a concern that age discrimination laws may be ineffective, or less effective in protecting older women. I test this implication by estimating the differential effect of age discrimination laws on labor market outcomes between older women and older men. My findings show that age discrimination laws did far less to improve labor market outcomes for older women than for older men. This may explain one reason for persistent discrimination against older women found in existing literature and supports the legal scholars’ argument that older women’s intersectional discrimination must be recognized as a separate cause of action.

August 27, 2018 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Before MeToo: Was Media Representation of Sexual Harassment Accurate?

Joni Hersch & Beverly Moran, He Said, She Said, Let's Hear What the Data Say: Sexual Harassment in the Media, Courts, EEOC, and Social Science, 101 Kentucky L.J. 753 (2013)

In this article, we examine whether two national newspapers (the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal) provide a realistic representation of sexual harassment in the workplace. Whether intentional or inadvertent, the national media influences attitudes and subsequent behavior. Victims of sexual harassment who encounter such accounts may find comfort and validation in learning that others have had similar experiences, and that may lead to greater willingness to report their own harassment. It is only through exposing illegal behavior that such workplace practices can be eradicated.

 

We expected the news articles to provide more information about age, marital status, and race of the parties. These facts are almost never given in the newspaper accounts. Nevertheless, the demographics of the victims
covered in the newspaper articles we surveyed are largely reflective of the victims of sexual harassment reported in the three data sources we analyze. We also find that there is fairly limited information provided about the
specific nature of the harassment.

 

We expected a more even distribution of attention between the accuser and the accused in all accounts. In fact, the accused is almost always the focus where the incident only generates one news story. On the other hand,
where the incident generates several reports, the articles tend to become more even-handed in their coverage of the accused and the accuser. We also expected that the parties would speak for themselves. In fact, a large
part of the communication with the press is through attorneys. We found that there is virtually no coverage of events taking place before litigation.... [T]he articles on sexual harassment tend to wait for litigation, despite studies showing that the majority of incidents are not reported, much less litigated. Although understandable from the press' point of view, the focus on litigation gives the impression that most sexual harassment is handled in the courts....

 

Our main focus is on identifying whether the media's portrayal of sexual harassment accurately reflects the reality of sexual harassment as indicated in surveys, charge filings with the EEOC, and in complaints filed in district court. We provide and compare empirical evidence from these four different sources, and conclude with
an assessment of whether the media does accurately characterize sexual harassment.

August 27, 2018 in Equal Employment, Media, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Podcast: Catharine MacKinnon on Sexual Harassment in the Age of MeToo

Podcast: Signs, Ask a Feminist: Catharine MacKinnon and Durba Mitra Discuss Sexual Harassment in the Age of #MeToo

Durba Mitra (DM): Today as part of Signs’ Ask a Feminist series, I have the opportunity to speak about sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement with feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon, a lawyer, writer, teacher, and activist who is Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School and the James Barr Ames Visiting Scholar of Law at Harvard Law School since 2009, and one of the most cited legal scholars in the English language. MacKinnon is the author of numerous books, including the groundbreaking work Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination, published in 1979 by Yale University Press, when Professor MacKinnon was completing her PhD at Yale. MacKinnon went on to write the brief and win, as cocounsel, the landmark Supreme Court case Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, which established sexual harassment as discrimination. MacKinnon has authored numerous books on critical issues, including Feminism UnmodifiedToward a Feminist Theory of the State, and Are Women Human? I had the opportunity before this interview to read some of Professor MacKinnon’s research related to her landmark first book in an extraordinary resource, her own papers, acquired by the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. Her study, published almost forty years ago, became the basis of transformations not only in sexual harassment law but in wider discourses that shaped the public perception of the very idea of sexual harassment. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cites MacKinnon’s Sexual Harassment as the landmark study, the foundation for legal debates and social understanding on discrimination on the basis of sex.

July 31, 2018 in Equal Employment, Theory, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

CFP New Book Collection -- Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World 

Believe Me: A call for submissions

Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti — the editors who brought you the groundbreaking anthology Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape — are seeking submissions for a new book.

Believe Me: How Trusting Women Can Change the World will ask and answer a question that will change the way we think about sexual violence: What if we believed women?

We are close to a tipping point on trusting women: the explosion of activism inspired by #metoo is just the latest evidence. What Americans need now is to be pushed over the edge.

The need has never been more urgent. In part because of the progress women 

have made and are poised to make, we’re living in an age of profound backlash. An unrepentant misogynist, accused many times over of sexual harassment and assault, is our president. The Department of Education is consulting “men’s rights” groups, once rightly seen as the dangerous fringe, as they form education policy around rape. Online harassment is a scourge; misogynists are more emboldened than ever.

While Believe Me will be focused primarily on sexual assault, we are also looking for essays that take the premise and apply it broadly, including (but not at all limited to):

  • How race, gender identity, and class impact what kinds of women are believed and how they’re treated.
  • How conservative women have co-opted feminism and its tenant to ‘believe women’ in order to roll back women’s rights
  • How believing women about their own experience of themselves could transform the fight for trans rights and specifically reduce violence against trans women.
  • A vision of masculinity that isn’t defined by power over women.
  • How white women’s “believability” has harmed communities of color — in particular men of color accused of violence against white women
  • The inherent misogyny of white supremacists and the inherent white supremacy of misogynists.
  • What it’s like to not believe yourself about your own experience of sexual violence, and how we can help survivors overcome that internalized disbelief.
  • How male victims of sexual violence deal with additional stigmas, including the fear of being feminized
  • The link between the rise of marginalized voices on social media and online harassment, and the disinformation campaigns that have radically undermined democracy here in the U.S.
  • The many connections between violence against women and our inhumane immigration policies
  • How listening to women could change the way we think about justice and consequences for rapists

Essays will be between 2000 and 3000 words.

To submit, please email a short pitch (NOT a complete essay) about what you’d like to write, along with two clips of previous pieces (they don’t have to be published, we’d just like a sense of your writing) to believeme2019 at gmail dot com. All contributors will be paid. The deadline for submissions is September 1.

July 26, 2018 in Books, Call for Papers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee Skeptical of Judiciary's Response to Sexual Harassment in Courthouses

Joan Biskupic, Senators Unhappy With Judiciary's Response to Sexual Harassment in Courthouses

Senators from both parties expressed frustration and concern on Wednesday about the US judiciary's response to sexual harassment in federal courthouses.

 

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley complained that judicial officials, who studied the problem for six months after claims of misbehavior against US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski became public, produced only a "vague" report with no assessment of how widespread abuse might be.

 
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, warned that it might be time for an independent inspector general to oversee misconduct -- a proposal judicial officials have long fought as being unnecessary and a potential violation of the Constitution's separation of powers.
  
James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, insisted that judges are sufficiently addressing sexual misconduct.
 
"It's not as prevalent as it is in other workplaces," Duff said. 
 
When Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, pressed him to be more specific and use a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being "off the charts" sexual offenses, Duff further hesitated but answered, "By comparison to the other workplaces, it's probably ... maybe ... whatever I say ... it's just a guess, maybe a 3 or 4."
 
The Judiciary Committee hearing offered the first forum for examining the third branch's response to sexual harassment claims and broader misconduct issues since complaints against the California-based Kozinski emerged in December. The Washington Post, which first reported on Kozinski, highlighted an account from a law clerk who said the judge had asked her to look at pornographic images on his office computer.
 
A CNN special report in January, examining about 5,000 judicial orders arising from misconduct complaints over the past decade, found that courthouse employees and others with potentially valid complaints against judges rarely use the complaint system, or get no relief when they do. Judges overseeing the system seldom find that a claim warrants an investigation or that a judge should be disciplined.

June 19, 2018 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Open Statement on Sexual Harassment from Employment Discrimination Law Scholars

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.

Open Statement on Sexual Harassment from Employment Discrimination Law Scholars

 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

Introduction

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.

June 19, 2018 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leading Law Scholars on MeToo and Sexual Harassment Law in Joint Collaboration of Yale and Stanford Law Reviews

The #MeToo movement has prompted a national dialogue about sexual harassment. This Companion Collection, launched in collaboration with the Stanford Law Review, aims to draw lessons from the #MeToo movement for activists, scholars, policymakers, lawyers, and judges. Across the two journals, the Collection offers twelve scholars’ insights on the ways sexual harassment produces and is produced by broader forms of inequality. Companion Essays can be found at the Stanford Law Review Online.

 

Articles in Yale Law Journal

Vicki Schultz, Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment, Again

The #MeToo movement has spurred a renewed focus on sexual harassment. But often, the narratives that emerge overemphasize sexualized forms of harassment at the expense of broader structural causes.  This Essay builds on Schultz's previous work to explore those institutional drivers of harassment.

Brian Soucek, Queering Sexual Harassment Law
Franchina v. City of Providence may be the first judicial opinion of the #MeToo movement. But it also points beyond the #MeToo movement, exemplifying harassment that is motivated by desires to enforce gender roles and why sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination under Title VII.

Rachel Arnow-Richman, Of Power and Process: Handling Harassers in an At-Will World

Pressure is mounting on companies to take swift disciplinary action regarding alleged sexual harassment. But our employment law incentivizes employers to tolerate high-ranking harassers while cracking down on inappropriate behavior by the rank-and-file. This Essay suggests a better path forward.

Angela Onwuachi-Willig, What About #UsToo?: The Invisibility of Race in the #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo movement has rightly been praised for breaking long-held silences about harassment. It has also rightly been critiqued for ignoring unique forms of harassment that women of color face. This Essay calls for a sexual harassment law that embraces intersectional, multidimensional identity.

Ramit Mizrahi, Sexual Harassment Law After #MeToo: Looking to California as a Model

The #MeToo movement has motivated people to speak out about sexual harassment, but many of those speaking remain vulnerable to retaliation. This Essay provides the perspective of an employment lawyer on the shortcomings of sexual harassment law and how state law can afford greater protection.

Tristin K. Green, Was Sexual Harassment Law a Mistake? The Stories We Tell

Does our sexual harassment law hinder the larger project of reducing harassment? This Essay demonstrates that the law constrains stories of harassment and hamstrings our calls for reform. Ultimately, the law, not just public perception, must change if this movement is to have a lasting effect.

 

Essays in Stanford Law Review

June 19, 2018 in Masculinities, Pop Culture, Scholarship, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Today on Sexual Harassment by Judges

Watch the hearing here on CSPAN Senate Committee Examines Workplace Misconduct in the Federal Judiciary, June 13, 2018

Joan Biskupic, CNN, Senate Judiciary Committee Takes up #MeToo in the Courts

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony related to judicial misconduct on Wednesday, including from a Washington lawyer who says she collected numerous accounts of sexual harassment by judges, in the first public airing of US judges' #MeToo moment.

Jaime Santos says that after women went public last December with complaints against California-based US Appeals Court Judge Alex Kozinski, she and colleagues began trying to address the larger harassment issue by talking to women who had worked closely with federal judges in prestigious law clerk positions.
"Harassment and abuse within the judiciary are not the rule, but these experiences are not uncommon," Santos, who is a former law clerk from the 9th Circuit, where Kozinski served, says in prepared testimony. "Law clerks and externs from numerous federal courts shared with us that they had felt demeaned, belittled, or humiliated during their clerkships or externships.
 
"Some shared stories about being asked sexual questions during job interviews, hearing their judge or co-clerks speak about female attorneys in derogatory and objectifying terms, and being groped or kissed in public and in private."
 
A CNN special report in January, examining about 5,000 judicial orders arising from misconduct complaints over the past decade, found that courthouse employees and others with potentially valid complaints against judges rarely use the judiciary's misconduct system, or get no relief when they do. Judges overseeing the system seldom find that a claim warrants an investigation or that a judge should be disciplined.
 
On Wednesday the Senate committee is also scheduled to hear from James Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the US Courts, who oversaw a group set up to examine judicial misconduct. Chief Justice John Roberts established the working group in December after The Washington Post first reported complaints from women against Kozinski.
 
In his prepared remarks, Duff highlights the group's proposal for a national Office of Judicial Integrity, with a hotline for employees to seek counseling, guidance and intervention if harassed. Duff also says the current process for reporting complaints against judges "works well when utilized." He said officials are trying to make it easier to use.
The working group reported earlier this month that "inappropriate conduct" in courthouses is "not limited to a few isolated instances," but the group did not detail the magnitude of employee abuse beyond saying it was "not pervasive."
It did make several recommendations, including that judges put a greater priority on improving workplace culture, the code of conduct be revised to make clear what behavior is prohibited and the complaint system be made more transparent and accessible.
 

Live tweeting commentary on the hearing by Courtney Milan (pen name of former law prof and Kozinski judicial clerk Heidi Bond) @courtneymilan 

For more on the Working Group Report from the committee which studied the issue:

The Federal Judiciary Working Group Issues Its Report on Workplace Sexual Misconduct

Working Group Recommends Changes to Prevent Workplace Harassment in the Judiciary

June 13, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Legislation, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Federal Judiciary Committee Issues its Report on Workplace Sexual Misconduct

Workplace Changes Recommended for Judiciary

The Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, a group of federal judges and senior Judiciary officials formed at the request of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., issued a report recommending measures to improve workplace conduct policies and procedures in the federal Judiciary. The Working Group submitted its findings to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal Judiciary’s policy-making body. The report and an executive summary are available online.

 

The recommendations include clarifying workplace standards and communications about how employees can raise formal complaints, removing barriers to reporting complaints, providing additional and less formal avenues for employees to seek expert advice and assistance on workplace conduct issues, and utilizing enhanced training on these subjects for judges and employees.

 

Several recommendations of the Working Group have already been implemented or are underway, such as clarifying that confidentiality rules in the Judiciary do not prevent law clerks or employees from reporting misconduct by judges. Many of the report’s recommendations require further action by the Judicial Conference.  

The report is here.

Commentary by Joan Biskupic, CNN, Judicial "Inappropriate Conduct" Broader than Isolated Incidents, Panel Finds

A special US judiciary working group set up last December after a prominent appeals court judge was accused of sexual harassment reported on Monday that "inappropriate conduct" in the nation's courthouses is "not limited to a few isolated instances."

 
Yet the eight-member group -- which met with scores of former and current employees of the judiciary and invited comment nationwide -- did not detail the magnitude of employee abuse in the US judiciary beyond saying it was "not pervasive." The group also did not note whether, during its five months of study, any action was taken against individual judges or other court employees.
The working group, which was established by Chief Justice John Roberts, made several recommendations in its report, including that:
  • judges should put a greater priority on improving workplace culture
  • the code of conduct should be revised to make clear what behavior is prohibited
  • the complaint system should be made more transparent and accessible.

June 11, 2018 in Courts, Judges, Women lawyers, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lilly Ledbetter on Equal Pay Day

Lilly Ledbetter: My #MeToo Moment

Equal Pay Day — the day up to which the typical woman must work in a particular year to catch up with what the average man earned the previous year — always brings back a rush of memories. Not surprisingly, many of them I’d rather forget: the pit in my stomach, for example, that developed when I read the anonymous note left in my mailbox that told me I was being paid a fraction of what other, male supervisors at Goodyear were making. And when the Supreme Court denied me justice in my pay discrimination case.

(Some of them are happier memories, like when President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure other women would not receive the same treatment.)

Sexual harassment isn’t about sex, just like pay discrimination isn’t just about pay. Both are about power. They are clear evidence that too many workplaces value women less. That was true for me in the 1980s and 1990s when I worked at Goodyear, and it is still true today.

April 10, 2018 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 6, 2018

Holding Corporate Fiduciaries Liable to Shareholders for Sexual Misconduct

Daniel Jacob Hemel & Dorothy Lund, Sexual Harassment and Corporate Law, Columbia Law Rev. (forthcoming)

The year 2017 marked an inflection point in the evolution of social norms regarding sexual harassment. While victims of workplace harassment had long suffered in silence, the surfacing of serious sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein encouraged many more victims to tell their personal stories of abuse. These scandals have spread beyond Hollywood to the rest of corporate America, leading to the departures of several high-profile executives as well as sharp stock price declines at a number of firms. In the past year, shareholders at four publicly traded companies have filed lawsuits alleging that corporate directors and officers breached their fiduciary duties and/or violated federal securities laws in connection with sexual harassment scandals at those firms. More such suits are likely to follow in the months ahead. 

In this Article, we examine the role of corporate and securities law in regulating and remedying workplace sexual misconduct. We specify the conditions under which corporate fiduciaries can be held liable to shareholders under state corporation law for perpetrating sexual misconduct or allowing it to occur at their firms. We also discuss the circumstances under which federal securities law requires issuers to disclose sexual misconduct allegations against top executives and to reveal payments made to settle sexual misconduct claims. After building a doctrinal framework for analyzing potential liability, we consider the strategic and normative implications of using corporate and securities law as tools to address workplace-based sexual misconduct. We conclude that corporate and securities law can serve to publicize the scope and severity of sexual harassment, incentivize proactive and productive interventions by corporate fiduciaries, and punish individuals and entities that commit, conceal, and abet sexual misconduct in the workplace. But we also address the potential discursive and distributional implications of using laws designed to protect shareholders as tools to regulate sexual harassment. We end by emphasizing the promise as well as the pitfalls of corporate law as a catalyst for organizational and social change.

April 6, 2018 in Business, Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Expanding the EEOC's Enforcement Powers for Sexual Harassment

Kenneth Robert Davis, Strong Medicine: Fighting the Sexual Harassment Pandemic, Ohio State L. J. (forthcoming)

A pandemic of sexual harassment has stricken the country. A recent EEOC report shows that, depending on how the question is posed, between 25 and 85 percent of women respond that they have experienced harassment in the workplace. The report also states that 90 percent of incidents go unreported. Victims do not believe that their employers will be receptive to their complaints, and many fear censure or retaliation. The law is limited in its capacity to deter a pandemic that has psychological, sociological, and cultural causes. Nevertheless, the law has a role to play, particularly in the workplace. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, and the courts have long recognized sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. The Act has established a framework focused on conciliation, and, where efforts at settlement fail, on litigation. Regrettably, this framework has failed to achieve its mission of deterrence. In Meritor Bank v. Vinson, the Supreme Court established the elements of hostile-work-environment claim. A plaintiff must prove that she was subjected to unwelcome, discriminatory words or conduct of a sexual or gender-related nature so severe or pervasive that they altered the conditions of her employment. In applying this standard, federal courts have rejected claims alleging highly offensive and even egregious misconduct. Several reasons account for the failure of current law to curtail sexual harassment in the workplace. One of the primary reasons is the law’s focus on conciliation and litigation. Under the current model, complainants file grievances with the EEOC, which seeks to settle disputes. If efforts at settlement fail, the current approach authorizes a federal court action. Settling cases may do little to deter abuses. After entering into a settlement agreement, an employer may slip back into complacency. Litigation also fails to promote deterrence because the current framework focuses on compensating victims.

 

To strengthen Title VII’s deterrent impact, this Article proposes that Congress supplement the current model by granting the EEOC expanded enforcement powers. The EEOC should have broad authority to initiate civil enforcement proceedings in federal court and in quasi-judicial enforcement proceedings. Rather than compensating victims, the purpose of such proceedings would be to identify instances of workplace harassment, and, where appropriate, sanction irresponsible employers. Because the EEOC, in such enforcement proceedings, would not seek relief on behalf of victims, the elements that establish injury would be superfluous. In such proceedings the EEOC should merely have to prove that discriminatory, sexual or gender-related words or conduct would be highly offensive to a reasonable person. By adopting the “highly offensive to a reasonable person” standard, Congress would maximize prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.

April 6, 2018 in Equal Employment, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

MeToo, Time's Up, and Theories of Restorative and Transitional Justice

Lesley Wexler, Jennifer K. Robbennolt, Colleen Murphy, #Metoo, Time's Up, and Theories of Justice

Abstract:

Allegations against movie-mogul Harvey Weinstein and the ensuing #MeToo movement opened the floodgates to a modern day reckoning with sex discrimination in the workplace. High level and high profile individuals across industries have been fired, suspended, and resigned. At the same time, serious concerns have been raised about useful processes for non-privileged women, due process for those accused of misconduct, and the need for proportionate consequences. And there have been calls for both restorative and transitional justice in addressing this problem. But these calls have not been explicit about what sort of restoration or transformation is envisioned.

This article explores the meaning, utility, and complexities of restorative and transitional justice for dealing with sexual misconduct in the workplace. We begin by documenting the restorative origins of #MeToo as well as exploring steps taken, most prominently by Time’s Up, to amplify and credit survivors’ voices, seek accountability, change workplace practices, and encourage access to the legal system. We then take up the call for restorative justice by exploring its key components — including acknowledgement, responsibility-taking, harm repair, non-repetition, and reintegration — with an eye toward how these components might apply in the context of addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

We conclude by looking more broadly to the insights of transitional justice. We identify some shared features of transitional societies and the #MeToo setting, including structural inequalities, a history of denial and the normalization of wrongful behavior, and uncertainty about the way forward. We then provide guidance for ongoing reform efforts. First, we emphasize the vital importance of including and addressing the interests of marginalized groups within the larger movement both because we need to know and acknowledge specific intersectional harms and also because doing so helps model the kinds of equal relationships that marginalized groups seek across other dimensions such as race, sexual orientation, gender orientation, and disability. Second, emphasize the need for holism and mixed types of responses in trying to spur societal change.

March 14, 2018 in Equal Employment, Theory, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Update on Work of Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group on Sexual Harassment

Judicial Conference Receives Status Report on Workplace Conduct Review

Nearly 20 reforms and improvements have been implemented or are under development to help address workplace conduct concerns in the federal judiciary, James C. Duff, Chair of the Federal Judiciary Workplace Conduct Working Group, reported today at the biannual meeting of the Judicial Conference.

 

In introducing Duff before he delivered his report, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., who is the Conference's presiding officer, told the group, "I would like to reiterate what I stated in my year-end report. I have great confidence in the men and women who comprise the federal judiciary. I am sure that the overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have a clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies. The Work of this group will help our branch take the necessary steps to ensure an exemplary workplace for every court employee."

 

“Any harassment in the judiciary is too much,” Duff said in his report to the Conference. He told the Conference that the Working Group hopes to simplify and develop additional options, at both the national and local levels, for employees to seek assistance with workplace conduct matters. . . . 

 

Representatives of current and former law clerks and a cross-section of current judiciary employees met with the Working Group at its most recent meeting and had what Duff described as "an informative and productive discussion."

 

The Working Group also is receiving input via a mailbox on uscourts.gov, through which current and former judiciary employees can submit comments relating to the policies and procedures for protecting all judiciary employees from inappropriate workplace conduct.... 

 

The following either have been accomplished or are in progress:

  • Provided a session on sexual harassment during the ethics training for newly appointed judges in February.
  • Established an online mailbox and several other avenues and opportunities for current and former judiciary employees to comment on policies and procedures for protecting and reporting workplace misconduct.
  • Added instructive in-person programs on judiciary workforce policies and procedures and workplace sexual harassment to the curricula at Federal Judicial Center programs for chief district and chief bankruptcy judges this spring and upcoming circuit judicial conferences throughout the country this spring and summer.
  • Removed the model confidentiality statement from the judiciary’s internal website to revise it to eliminate any ambiguous language that could unintentionally discourage law clerks or other employees from reporting sexual harassment or other workplace misconduct.
  • Improve law clerk and employee orientations with increased training on workplace conduct rights, responsibilities, and recourse that will be administered in addition to, as well as separately from, other materials given in orientations.
  • Provide “one click” website access to obtain information and reporting mechanisms for both Employment Dispute Resolution (EDR) and Judicial Conduct and Disability Act (JC&D) claims for misconduct.
  • Create alternative and less formalized options for seeking assistance with concerns about workplace misconduct, both at the local level and in a national, centralized office at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, to enable employees to raise concerns more easily.
  • Provide a simplified flowchart of the processes available under the EDR and JC&D.
  • Create and encourage a process for court employee/law clerk exit interviews to determine if there are issues and suggestions to assist court units in identifying potential misconduct issues.
  • Establish a process for former law clerks and employees to communicate with and obtain advice from relevant offices and committees of the judiciary.
  • Continue to examine and clarify the Codes of Conduct for judges and employees.
  • Improve communications with EDR and JC&D complainants during and after the claims process.
  • Revise the Model EDR Plan to provide greater clarity to employees about how to navigate the EDR process.
  • Establish qualifications and expand training for EDR Coordinators.
  • Lengthen the time allowed to file EDR complaints.
  • Integrate sexual harassment training into existing judiciary programs on discrimination and courtroom practices.
  • Review the confidentiality provisions in several employee/law clerk handbooks to revise them to clarify that nothing in the provisions prevents the filing of a complaint.
  • Identify specifically the data that the judiciary collects about judicial misconduct complaints to add a category for any complaints filed relating to sexual misconduct. The data shows that of the 1,303 misconduct complaints filed in fiscal year 2016, more than 1,200 were filed by dissatisfied litigants and prison inmates. No complaints were filed by law clerks or judiciary employees and no misconduct complaints related to sexual harassment.

March 14, 2018 in Equal Employment, Judges, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Federal Legislation Introduced to Require Public Companies to Publicly Report Sexual Harassment

Elizabeth Warren Wants to Force Public Companies to Make Their Sexual Harassment Data Public

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Nevada Rep. Jacky Rosen introduced legislationTuesday that would require public companies to publicly report allegations of sexual harassment and other types of harassment in the workplace.

 

The Democrats argue investors are entitled to know the specifics of harassment allegations — and any settlements public companies have made. The legislation, called the “Sunlight in Workplace Harassment Act,” was first reviewed by BuzzFeed News before its introduction.

 

If passed, Warren and Rosen’s legislation would require public companies to annually report the number of settlements they entered related to sexual harassment and the total amount of money spent on them. It would also require reports on settlements made based on complaints related to race, religion, sex, gender identity, genetic information, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, service-member status, or age discrimination.

 

The bill would also require the companies to report the “average length of time” for an employer to resolve a complaint regarding sexual harassment. But the bill specifically prohibits the disclosure of the names of employees involved in the settlements.

 

“What the #MeToo movement has taught us is that we're not going to change the culture where this misconduct is brushed aside or openly tolerated in workplaces across America without more transparency on how these issues are being handled.” 

February 27, 2018 in Business, Legislation, Violence Against Women, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 23, 2018

New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women have Experienced Sexual Harassment

NPR, New Survey Finds 81 Percent of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment

Now an online survey launched in January by a nonprofit called Stop Street Harassment offers some of that missing evidence. It found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.

 

Those numbers are much larger than suggested by other recent polls. Those polls used a more limited sample or narrower definitions of harassment, says Anita Raj, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health at the University of California, San Diego, who analyzed the results of the new survey.

 

The new survey, on the other hand, included a larger, more nationally representative sample of men and women ages 18 and above, says Raj.

 

The survey also involved a broader definition of sexual harassment that includes the "continuum of experiences" that women face, she says.

 

That includes verbal forms of sexual harassment, like being catcalled or whistled at or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature. It also includes physical harassment, cyber harassment and sexual assaults.

 

The results, released in a report Wednesday, show that 77 percent of women had experienced verbal sexual harassment, and 51 percent had been sexually touched without their permission. About 41 percent said they had been sexually harassed online, and 27 percent said they had survived sexual assault.

 

The report also looked into locations where people experienced harassment. The majority of women — 66 percent — said they'd been sexually harassed in public spaces. "The public forums are where you see the more chronic experiences of sexual harassment," says Raj. These include verbal harassment and physical harassment, like touching and groping.

 

However, 38 percent of women said they experienced sexual harassment at the workplace. Thirty-five percent said they had experienced it at their residence. These experiences are more likely to be assaults and the "most severe forms" of harassment, says Raj.

February 23, 2018 in Pop Culture, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Norms Cascade of #MeToo and New Behaviors at Work

Joan Williams & Suzanne Lebsock, Now What?, Harv. Bus. Rev.

Farewell to the world where men can treat the workplace like a frat house or a pornography shoot

 

Not only is this better for women, but it’s better for most men. A workplace culture in which sexual harassment is rampant is often one that also shames men who refuse to participate. 

 

Still, it’s unnerving for many men to see the numbers of those toppled by accusations grow ever higher.

 

This is not a fight between men and women, however. . . To repeat: This is not a fight between men and women. It’s a fight over whether a small subgroup of predatory men should be allowed to interfere with people’s ability to show up and do what they signed up for: work.

 

The result of all these changes is what social scientists call a norms cascade: a series of long-term trends that produce a sudden shift in social mores. There’s no going back. The work environment now is much different from what it was a year ago. To put things plainly, if you sexually harass or assault a colleague, employee, boss, or business contact today, your job will be at risk.

 

What we’re seeing today is not the end of sex, or of seduction, or of la différence. What we’re seeing is the demise of a work culture where women must submit to being treated, insistently and incessantly, as sexual opportunities. Most people, when they go to work, want to work. And now they can.

February 23, 2018 in Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)