October 27, 2017

Charges of workplace sexual harassment have exploded into the news in recent months as allegations by dozens of women have forced the resignations of such high-profile figures as Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick, Fox TV host Bill O'Reilly and — in perhaps the most spectacular fall from grace — iconic Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Many observers believe the scandals, which involve accusations of harassment, sexual coercion and in some cases rape, mark a turning point in the decades-long battle to change corporate culture so that sexual harassment is no longer tolerated. Human resource managers are beginning to evaluate whether anti-sexual harassment programs might be more effective if they focused on teaching employees to avoid and respond to all types of inappropriate and uncivil behavior rather than simply on teaching them the technicalities of anti-harassment law. At the same time, however, businesses increasingly are requiring employees to sign arbitration agreements that forbid them from taking sexual harassment claims to court, a practice some women's rights advocates say helps perpetuate the behavior.

Cohen Milstein Partner Joseph Sellers tackles this subject in a pro/con debate over whether mandatory arbitration is harmful to victims of harassment.  Mr. Sellers takes the pro argument, writing, “when arbitration is used to resolve a private dispute, nobody knows about it except the employer. You lose the benefit of having rulings that are public and could guide people's conduct in the future.”

The full "At Issue" debate can be viewed here.

CQ Researcher's full "Workplace Sexual Harassment" report can be viewed here