December 10, 2019

Employment Law

Sexual Harassment Claims in the #MeToo Era

December 10, 2019 – The #MeToo movement has certainly shed light on the extent of sexual harassment in the lives of women in the workplace—putting an end to abuse and holding aggressors and employers accountable raises another set of issues. What rights do women have in the face of powerful institutions and public personalities? What is a proper remedy in the case of sexual harassment? Can women ever be free from the threat of retaliation?

Unfortunately, despite the growing awareness around disparate treatment and rampant cases of harassment, abuse, and improper solicitations, women continue to be at risk of sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition to the multi-layered analysis and often challenging fact scenarios and “he-said-she-said” characterizations, the law still hasn’t caught up to the movement. This means that in Minnesota, and nationwide, women require the support and advocacy of experienced sexual harassment attorneys.

In November 2019, the Minnesota Supreme Court heard Kenneh v. Homeward Bound, an important sexual harassment case that challenges the “severe or pervasive” standard used by Minnesota courts. In this case a program supervisor was harassed by a janitor who talked sexually and licked his lips. One day he followed the plaintiff to the vending machine and proposed oral sex. She felt threatened when he pulled up next to her at a gas station. The court is deciding whether this conduct is sufficiently “severe or pervasive” or if the standard itself is outdated. It also is examining whether liability should exist where an employer’s policy is “no tolerance” and does not require the case to meet a “severe or pervasive” standard.

Since the #MeToo movement, men, women, and employers have woken up to the reality that sexual harassment itself is rampant in all industries and diverse workplace cultures, from Hollywood to McDonald’s. While public opinion has shifted and most believe that women should be free to show up to work without the threat of being sexual targets, the law has been slower to catch up, relying on old case laws that require a high burden of proof on the employee.

Sexual harassment employment claims continue to rise

According to the EEOC, sexual harassment victims recovered $56 million in 2018. Charges of sexual harassment went up 13.6% and lawsuits have increased by 50% since 2017. This may mean that more women are coming forward, emboldened by the #MeToo movement to tell their stories, put an end to harassment, and hold employers accountable for sexual harassment in the workplace.  These numbers indicate advocacy is on the rise; however, they also suggest that the experience of sexual harassment is still a problem for women in Minnesota and nationwide.

Contact Our Sexual Harassment Employment Lawyers

If you have been subject to sexual harassment including sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, sexually motivated physical contact, or other verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature, you may be entitled to compensation. Our experienced Minnesota sexual harassment attorneys will review the facts of your case, advise you on how to proceed, and take a comprehensive approach to ensure maximum compensation and other remedies in your favor. Contact us for a free initial consultation.