In the wake of the sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, discrimination against female employees, particularly those in subservient roles, has become a national conversation. While it remains to be seen whether the conversation will lead to wholesale change, one thing is for certain. Sexual harassment is prevalent in a number of fields that some may have believed were immune to inappropriate behavior.
A prime example is California’s legislature. As the purveyor of forward-thinking policies that protect vulnerable employees, it was recently revealed that sexual harassment of female employees had persisted unchecked for decades. A latimes.com report revealed that nearly 200 women had recently signed a letter denouncing the rampant sexual misconduct in and around Sacramento.
They complained of being groped by male legislators and supervisors, and being threatened with reprisal if they stood up to inappropriate behavior and the futility of a human resources system that often ignored their protests and left them with no method of recourse. As bewildering as these stories might be, they are not surprising considering that 80 percent of California’s legislative body are men.
While the legislature has a disciplinary system designed to punish and deter sexual misconduct, many women find it to be irretrievably broken, as their complaints commonly lead to being shunned and even fired. In fact, the investigations conducted by rules committees rarely find or punish such misconduct. Nevertheless, legislative leaders have called for a major review of the investigatory system and the disciplinary process.
In the meantime, an increasing number of women are turning to the legal system for redress. In fact, a female staffer who was fired for voicing complaints recently settled a sexual harassment suit for $100,000.
If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment, an experienced employment law attorney can advise you.