Despite his attorney’s unjustified protestations, Harvey Weinstein was recently sentenced to 23 years in prison for the rape of one woman and the sexual assault of another. As one of many powerful men whose conduct motivated the irrepressible #MeToo, Weinstein’s sentencing confirms the movement’s efficacy in forcing accountability. Finally, predators with deep pockets who for too long have bought silence and protection from criminal prosecution are being held accountable.
The #MeToo movement triggered, not only criminal prosecutions but new state laws. In reaction to the public outrage surrounding the many high profile cases the movement exposed, state legislatures responded with new protections. New York is one of the states to lead the way by now requiring mandatory sexual harassment training, eliminating the difficult “severe and pervasive” standard of proof and banning nondisclosure agreements unless agreed to by the victim. The law expands protections for workplace harassment and independent contractors.
By eliminating the “severe and pervasive” burden of proof, there is, at last, a recognition that even a single instance of harassment can unreasonably interfere with a victim’s workplace or create an uncomfortable working environment. In the past, all too often many cases of harassment would be dismissed because a judge would determine the challenged conduct was not “severe or pervasive.” The standard was not uniformly applied and offered too many judges deciding sexual harassment cases the discretion to dismiss them despite the injury to the victim.
In New York City, local law now requires all employers with 15 or more employees or independent contractors to provided annual, interactive, anti-sexual harassment training to all such individuals. While mandatory training will not necessarily deter powerful men, and historically has not deterred offensive conduct in many organizations which required training, it does represent, at last, the need for more awareness about these issues. It has yet to be decided whether the training requirements will eliminate workplace harassment.
The new laws combined with the complex nature of these claims offer new challenges for victims. These challenges are best addressed by experienced #MeToo attorneys. If you or a loved one has been the victim of sexual harassment, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Although no amount of money will undo the harm caused, it can bring a sense of justice and closure for victims.
For more information or to consult with an experienced NYC workplace sexual harassment attorney, please contact Colleen M. Meenan at Meenan & Associates, LLC.