April 18, 2018

ABA offers resources to combat harassment in wake of #MeToo

American Bar Association members may take advantage of a free 75-minute seminar, “Sexual Harassment: Changing the Conversations,” 10-11:15 a.m. PST on May 9 at the McAuliffe CLE Center (4201 N. 24th Street) in Phoenix.

Organized by the State Bar of Arizona and Arizona Supreme Court, in collaboration with the ABA and InReach, the program will use clinical analysis and scenario-based discussion to help participants respond to sexual harassment and lead their organizations to respond appropriately, too.

Interested participants may RSVP for the live in-person event or sign up for the webcast.

The May 9 program is among several resources developed by the ABA to address sexual harassment since the association’s House of Delegates passed Resolution 302, urging all employers to create and enforce policies that prohibit harassment and retaliation in the workplace based on gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.

The policy-making session during the February ABA Midyear Meeting in Vancouver was the first meeting of delegates since the #MeToo movement gained steam in October 2017 after revelations of sexual harassment in the workplace began to rock the entertainment, media and political establishments.

The measure was overwhelmingly supported by the 601-member body.

ABA president Hilarie Bass emphasized the important role of the ABA in addressing the issue. “Not so long ago, many people in the legal profession asked whether sexual harassment was really a problem,” she said.

“Today, everyone understands that sexual harassment is a problem in every workplace, often one that employers are either not aware of or have not addressed appropriately. Our goal today is to make sure that our workplaces are environments free of harassing behavior and that, to the extent that such behavior does take place, it will be expeditiously and appropriately addressed without retaliation to the victim.”

Several ABA entities have answered that call with resources, in addition to the seminar in Arizona.

Among them:

·        The Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will host on May 23 part four of its Sexual Harassment & Assault in the Workplace webinar series with “The Shameful Truth: Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession,” during which experts will examine the power dynamics for associates and female partners when they are attacked or otherwise victimized on the job, as well as how the Model Rules can help lawyers fight such harassment.  Other available programs from the series include “Sexual Harassment & Assault in the Workplace: What is It, Where Does It Come From…,” “Barriers to Combatting Sexual Harassment In and Out of Court and Legislative Responses in the #MeToo Moment,” and “ ‘Hey Hun! Just How Bad Do You Want Your Heat Fixed?’ – Sexual Harassment in Residential Housing.”

·        The ABA Center for Professional Development and Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence presents “#MeToo: Empowering Employees and Employers to Address Workplace Sexual Harassment & Violence,” a CLE available on demand involving expert attorneys who will examine how employers can address harassment and violence in the workplace and create an environment where employers can respond to and report incidents without fear of retaliation.

·        The ABA Center for Professional Development and Forum on Construction Law offers an on-demand CLE, “The Construction Workplace: What You Need to Know About Sexual Harassment,” that features two seasoned employment lawyers discussing the ins and outs of combating harassment in the construction industry.

·        The ABA Center for Professional Development and Section of Litigation teamed up for a CLE available on demand, “Evaluating Sexual Harassment Claims: Strategies and Best Practices,” in which two veteran employment law litigators focus on the evaluation of sexual harassment claims, featuring perspectives from both plaintiff and defense counsel.

·        Several ABA entities, including the Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence; Criminal Justice Section; Division for Public Services; Law Practice Division; Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice; Section of Dispute Resolution; and Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division, are co-sponsoring, “Sexual Harassment: The Employer’s Role in Prevention,” another CLE available on demand, which focuses on workplace harassment prevention. Discussion topics include guidance on developing policies on harassment prohibition and non-retaliation, as well as help on creating procedures for prevention.

Hot off the presses, the Commission on Women in the Profession released in March its newly updated policy manual on sexual harassment for legal employers and employees. In development over the last two years, “Zero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession” is a soup-to-nuts resource that includes practical advice and a summary of current laws, cases, policies and best practices, such as sample policies for prohibiting harassment and for progressive discipline. The guide is available in both hard copy and e-book format.

An online toolkit, a companion to the manual, is in the works and will be available in the coming months.

Many other resources are in development.  Upcoming publications from the Law Student Division and Judicial Division will feature stories on combating sexual harassment. Student Lawyer magazine will explore the harassment of judicial clerks, and The Judge’s Journal is devoting an entire issue to the topic of sexual harassment from the judicial perspective.

Stay tuned for a series of podcasts from the Commission on Domestic Violence on sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement.  The group’s new On the Ground audio programs will next explore the problem following three episodes on domestic violence.