Law firms are facing a tougher time dealing with sexual harassment complaints. It has become a recurring issue in the workplace. Sexual harassment in the workplace can happen anywhere. It can happen in the office or a social setting.
The number of sexual harassment complaints the EEOC received last year was almost 13,000. Although it exceeded the number of claims for religious or ethnic discrimination, the vast majority of victims choose not to take action.
Many victims avoid filing sexual harassment or criminal complaints due to fear of retaliation. This is because many of them fear losing their job or being taken off a promotion track.
Women in large firms are still at risk of sexual harassment, and they typically face barriers to advancement. Despite legal protection from retaliation and harassment, many still feel they are forced into positions that are not ideal.
Women who experience sexual harassment also worry about their personal lives being made public. This is why it is so important that lawyers understand how to handle these types of cases.
High Profile Court Proceedings
In April 2017, former senior associate of Squire, Patton Boggs, announced her resignation from the firm due to the gender-based harassment and discrimination she experienced. Her post caught the attention of Reddit users, many of who were lawyers.
Squire Patton Boggs responded by pointing out that 12 of the firm’s recent partner promotions were made to women. Many female attorneys at big law firms have come forward after allegations of sexual harassment were brought forward following the case of Alexandra Marchuk, which was filed against Squire Patton Boggs.
Monteverde was accused of sexually harassing Marchuk during a party in December 2015. According to the lawsuit, he also made inappropriate jokes and made sexual requests during the incident. That same year, a former associate of the firm filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the firm. The case was settled for an unknown amount.
Elina Chechelnitsky said she was assigned work only because a male partner wanted her to work for him. She also claimed she was passed over for non-billable work and forced to sign a confidentiality agreement. Chechelnitsky claimed she was fired because she complained about the harassment and the lack thereof.
Law Firm Gender Inequality
In many cases, sexual harassment occurs at the same time as gender inequality. The woman, who worked at the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, claimed that she was paid millions of dollars less than her male partners, and she was also subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination.
In another case, partners of a prominent law firm voted to remove a female partner after she sued them for pay inequality. The plaintiff, Kerry Campbell, said she was excluded from advancement opportunities and was retaliated against after filing a lawsuit.
Preventing Sexual Harassment
The American Bar Association took a major step toward addressing attorney misconduct last year by developing new rules that include an anti-discrimination provision and a prohibition on sexual harassment.
Many firms offer training programs designed to address sexual harassment. These include in-person classes and online courses. They cover the legal requirements of sexual harassment and the types of behavior that can get people in trouble.
No evidence shows these programs are effective in curbing sexual harassment. In addition, many firms often require little or no training to get the desired results.
One of the reasons why sexual harassment is still prevalent in large law firms is due to a lack of formal policies and procedures in place to address it. This can discourage victims from reporting the harassment and allow the harasser to avoid being retaliated against.
Large law firms can help prevent sexual harassment by enforcing zero-tolerance policies and monitoring their work culture. Havens noted that promoting women to leadership positions in law firms could help address the issue of gender inequality in the profession.
Getting help can help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. According to Havens, these steps can help minimize the damage caused by the behavior. While the Marchuk case helped draw attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the legal profession, more needs to be done to prevent it.
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