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Sexual harassment cases prompt Congressional action

Category: Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, Sexual Harassment

 

In January 2016, a Democratic congresswoman from California declared her intention to make federal laws against sexual harassment stronger. Her plan was reportedly motivated by specific instances of sexual harassment that occurred at the University of Arizona.

According to several reports from more than 10 years ago, an astronomer employed by the University of Arizona had contributed to a hostile work environment by making demeaning comments, behaving inappropriately towards female students and using harassing speech to disparage his female colleagues. Although the university confirmed his bad behavior, which he even admitted to, he was later granted a state-endowed science education chair position at the University of Wyoming. The California congresswoman’s proposed solution to such problems would involve mandating that universities must disclose Title IX gender discrimination accusations when students, faculty or staff members try to move to different institutions.

Some observers say that the legal aspects of such a proposal might be difficult to implement. Universities whose employees apply for other jobs may be unaware that they are doing so and so unable to make proper disclosures, and some institutions will undoubtedly be wary of retaliatory lawsuits. Although an official with the American Association of University Professors gave the idea limited support, she said that the fact that many institutions fall short of AAUP standards for due process could hamper this push for a more-inclusive workplace.

Workplace discrimination takes many forms, and it may be deeply ingrained in an organization’s culture. Actions like unwanted sexual advances can make it almost impossible to focus on work and pursue career advancement, and some institutions fail to treat allegations with the appropriate level of attention. People who feel they have been subjected to such actions may want to have the assistance of an employment law attorney in seeking appropriate redress.

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