Just days after reconvening its Select Task Force on Harassment with a public meeting titled “Transforming #MeToo Into Harassment-Free Workplaces,” the EEOC marched into seven different federal district courts, from Los Angeles, California to Mobile, Alabama and in between, and said “#MeToo.”
In a statement about the meeting, EEOC Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum remarked that the challenge for the EEOC “is to use this #MeToo moment well”, observing that the EEOC had “the attention and commitment of the range of different actors in society that we need … [to] channel that energy to create significant and sustainable change.”
So what does this change look like? And what should employers be mindful of as they try to achieve compliance and reduce litigation risk? READ MORE
In tandem with the growing #MeToo movement, sexual harassment appears to be top of mind for California legislators in 2018. In the wake of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and the like, California has been flooded with an unprecedented number of bills aimed at combatting sexual harassment. The 20+ pending bills take on topics ranging from confidentiality provisions to increased mandatory harassment training. Now more than ever, employers must pay heed to how sexual harassment issues are handled at their companies. Here are the highlights from the top 10 bills that – if passed – will most likely impact employers:
Senate Bill 820 would prohibit settlement agreement provisions that prevent the disclosure of facts related to claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment or sex discrimination cases. Otherwise known as the STAND (Stand Together Against Non-Disclosures) Act, the bill would apply to agreements entered into after January 1, 2019 and would create an exception where a complainant requests a nondisclosure provision (unless the defendant is a government agency or public official, in which case the exception would not be available). The STAND Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1, 2018 with a vote of 5-1, and is now headed to a full vote in the Senate. Assembly Bill 3057 contains similar prohibitions, and is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. READ MORE
On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act (the “Act”), a comprehensive package of legislation aimed at combating sexual harassment in the workplace and strengthening New York City’s anti-sexual harassment laws. This is the first major legislative initiative undertaken by new City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and he explained, “All New Yorkers are entitled to a safe, respectful workplace, and this package of legislation sends a strong message to public and private employers that there is no place for sexual harassment in our City.” The bill is subject to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval and he is expected to sign this legislation into law in short order.
There are 11 separate bills included in the Act: three amend the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”), three apply to private employers, and the rest apply to City agencies. READ MORE
On March 30, 2018, the New York State Assembly completed passage of the 2018-19 state budget. Undoubtedly spurred by the #MeToo movement, the final budget measure, which is expected to be signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, includes a bill (S. 7507–C/ A. 9507–C), containing several measures aimed at creating safer workplaces free of sexual harassment and abuse. READ MORE
Newton’s Third Law of Physics states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” A recent Complaint filed in the Southern District of New York suggests that this principle may also hold true for the recent “Me Too” movement. READ MORE
Since Anita Hill’s testimony in the early 1990s, sexual harassment has become a familiar term. At the federal level, Title VII prohibits harassment, discrimination, and retaliation on the basis of sex and gender, among other things. On the state level, the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) expands on the categories of protected classes covered by Title VII but is interpreted by the courts in largely the same manner as Title VII. Under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), harassment is defined to include verbal harassment (such as derogatory comments), physical harassment (including physical interference with movement), visual harassment (such as derogatory cartoon or drawings), and sexual favors. FEHA prohibits sexual harassment because of a person’s sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, transgender status, pregnancy, and childbirth, breastfeeding, and related medical conditions. Harassment based on the perception of any of these characteristics is also prohibited, and sexually harassing conduct need not be motivated by sexual desire to be considered unlawful. READ MORE
With sexual misconduct allegations sending shockwaves everywhere from Hollywood to Washington, it should come as no surprise that some legislators are chomping at the bit to pass legislation addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. On December 6, a group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would eliminate forced arbitration clauses in employment agreements. Representatives Cheri Bustos (D-Ill), Walter Jones (R-N.C.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are sponsoring the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act,” which proponents say will prevent women from being silenced through mandatory arbitration agreements. READ MORE
In the last several weeks, allegations of rampant sexual harassment have shocked the collective conscience. With the assistance of social media, what started as an allegation against a Hollywood mogul snowballed into a nation-wide conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. According to the Washington Post, hundreds of thousands of men and women took to Twitter and Facebook to express they had been victims of sexual harassment, many of them using the hashtag “MeToo” to show solidarity with other victims. READ MORE
Following the excitement of the same-sex marriage decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26th, the question remains how much the Opinion may impact Title VII employment discrimination claims. Based on our reading of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, and the many states that have passed legislation protecting employees from sexual-orientation discrimination, we recommend that employers revisit and update their anti-discrimination policies.
Last week, the EEOC suffered another major loss when a New York district court found that the EEOC once again shirked its pre-litigation obligations under Title VII. READ MORE