Over the past few months, the #MeToo movement has exposed an epidemic of sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. But without substantial reforms to our legal system, that movement may be all for naught.
So begins an important new op-ed in today’s Washington Post. The piece is titled: The #MeToo movement will be in vain if we don’t make these changes.
The author is Donna Lenhoff (more about her in a moment). This op-ed brings to the forefront legal issues central to the success of the “Me Too Movement.”
“What has become all too clear,” writes Lenhoff, “is that [Title VII and the mechanisms for enforcing it] — designed decades ago to redress and deter harassment and retaliation — are woefully inadequate, for four significant reasons.”
- First, while the threat of large damages can be effective in getting management to take preventive action, under Title VII, pain-and-suffering and punitive damages combined are capped. . . “
- “Second, many companies insist that harassment settlements be confidential. . . .”
- “Third, the agencies that enforce Title VII have never had the necessary resources . . .”
- “Fourth, private litigation is quite rare considering the prevalence of workplace harassment. . . .”
There is more, much more, but you’ll have to read the entire op-ed. Suffice it to say that Lenhoff’s no-nonsense brand of progressive thinking is needed if real change is to occur.
Meanwhile, here is some info about Donna Lenhoff:
Lenhoff has worked for strong enforcement of laws against workplace discrimination from both inside and outside the federal government. She served as Senior Civil Rights Advisor in the U.S. Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs during the Obama Administration, where she was responsible for updating 35+-year-old sex-discrimination regulations.
As a staff attorney at the then-Women’s Legal Defense Fund, she was the first person to testify in Congress about sexual harassment.
She lobbied for EEOC Guidelines on harassment and oversaw women’s groups’ amicus briefs in every major Supreme Court case involving harassment from 1978 to 2000.
Lenhoff also lobbied for legislative changes to strengthen civil-rights and labor laws that help workers, including the 1991 Civil Rights Act, and led the coalition that advocated for the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.