King & Greisen, LLP Blog

4 minutes reading time (703 words)

#MeToo Movement – A Year of Positive Change

About a year after the resurgence in the #MeToo movement, numerous positive changes have been initiated to better confront and combat sexual harassment.  States have begun to address deficiencies in their sexual misconduct policies.  Colorado has taken action against legislators who have sexually harassed others and is working on rewriting its harassment policy.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has led the charge in enforcing employment discrimination laws to tackle all forms of workplace harassment and has provided important resources to further this goal.

The States

As early as January 2018, according to a 50-state review by the Associated Press[1], almost all legislative chambers had implemented some type of written sexual harassment policy as a result of the renewed #MeToo movement.  Although state policies vary, several of them strongly prevent and penalize sexual misconduct.  In addition, lawmakers in some states participated in thorough sexual harassment training for the first time. 

Debra Katz, a renowned attorney in the area of sexual assault and Christine Blasey Ford’s attorney during the Kavanaugh hearing, has noted that although Congress is slow to effect change, several states have stepped up to fill the voids that Congress has left open.[2]  As of October 2018, many states have proposed or actually implemented legislation that goes further than present federal regulations regarding workplace sexual harassment by restricting or completely prohibiting confidentiality agreements and forced arbitration.  Some states have passed laws making sexual harassment training mandatory for employers and employees.

Colorado

Colorado is taking its own steps toward prohibiting and punishing sexual harassment.  After the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, there was turmoil in the legislature when several state legislators were accused of sexual harassment or assault.  By the end of March 2018, six Colorado legislators had been accused.[3]  While these events do not reflect what citizens want of their legislature, they have led to investigations, with some officials stepping down and others being expelled.  This shows that change is happening; Colorado is not going to sit idly by anymore.

Furthermore, the Legislative Workplace Interim Study Committee is working to create a new harassment policy to be voted on in the 2019 legislative session.  It is additionally considering publicizing the attendance list for sexual harassment prevention training in order to encourage participation.[4] 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC is spearheading positive change concerning sexual harassment.  In 2018, the EEOC filed 66 lawsuits alleging workplace harassment; 41 of these alleged sexual harassment.  Compared to Fiscal Year 2017, this is more than a 50 percent increase in sexual harassment suits.  With these lawsuits, the EEOC is seeking to protect a vast range of employees, including “servers, nurses, administrative assistants, customer service staff, truck drivers, welders, and other workers at cleaners and country clubs, sports bars and airlines, in factories, health care and grocery stores.”[5]  The EEOC was able to acquire $70 million for victims of sexual harassment in Fiscal Year 2018, which is $47.5 million more than Fiscal Year 2017.  Furthermore, the EEOC has effectively resolved 498 disputes regarding alleged harassment, which is a 43 percent increase compared to Fiscal Year 2017.

The EEOC also has helped by providing essential resources to those facing sexual harassment at work, such as the document, “What to do if you believe you have been harassed at work.”  To increase accessibility to legal services, the National Women’s Law Center’s Legal Network for Gender Equality, of which the EEOC is a member, provides hundreds of attorneys who are committed to providing a free initial legal consultation regarding complaints of sexual harassment and if necessary, on-going representation.  The NWLC has also created the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, which gives financial support for legal costs and free public relations assistance: “This program was designed with consideration for the needs of low-income women and women of color in particular, who face unique obstacles navigating the legal system and media.”[6]

The EEOC will not stop here; it has plans to continue to fight against sexual harassment in the workplace, including implementing an outreach campaign to encourage reporting.

[1] https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/alaska/articles/2018-01-11/sexual-misconduct-policies-face-updates-in-state-capitols

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/a-year-into-metoo-whats-next-for-the-movement/2018/10/23/d226d1a2-d6e5-11e8-8384-bcc5492fef49_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.dd689642bd3b

[3] 95 Denv. L. Rev. Online 104

[4] https://www.coloradoindependent.com/2018/09/04/sexual-harassment-co-capitol-policy-change/

[5] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/preventing-workplace-harassment.cfm

[6] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/katz.cfm

We would like to thank King Greisen LLP Law Clerk, Ciara Nicole Kimminau for contributing to this article.

Open Markets, AFL-CIO, SEIU, and Over 60 Signatori...
Common Evidentiary Trial Issues in Employment Law ...

Share this page

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn Share with friends

1670 York Street
Denver, CO 80206
Tel: 303.298.9878
Fax:303.298.9879