By Lawrence P. Schaefer |
We get used to stories breaking every six months or so describing men in influential leadership positions being ousted by public awareness of past patterns of sexually harassing behavior. Six months ago, it was Bill O’Reilly, today Harvey Weinstein. In each instance, these men retained positions of great leadership and influence for years, while victimizing scores of women through their sexually harassing behavior. Only when this pattern became public knowledge did real change occur.
Do we rejoice that this dinosaur (a term used to describe Weinstein) or dragon (used to describe O’Reilly) were finally slayed? Or do we face the more pressing question: Why did this pattern of conduct go uncorrected for years, with women raising complaints paid off and swept under the rug? Why was action only taken when the glare of public attention was focused on this pattern?
Companies Need to Raise the Bar
Companies have to do better, and we as advocates of victims of sexual harassing behavior have to do more. We need to take steps to ensure that the complaints of our clients aren’t resolved privately and for compensation alone, often with a corresponding obligation of strict confidentiality and non-disparagement, and no corrective action taken against the harasser. We need to hold companies to a “zero tolerance” standard when sexually harassing behavior is substantiated.
This obligation is especially acute when the perpetrators of sexual harassment have a history of the same or similar conduct in past – information that is often only discoverable when litigation occurs. We need to embolden our clients to take this step when necessary, especially when we have reason to believe the conduct at issue is a continuation of a pattern of abuse.
Moreover, O’Reilly and Weinstein aren’t dinosaurs or dragons, creatures long ago extinct or existing in mythology. Those of their ilk are present in many, many, workplaces. Their extinction depends on taking action before a pattern of victimization occurs. Part of the responsibility for this lies with the advocates for the victims of this abuse.
A Voice for Victims of Sexual Harassment
A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace will find advocates at Schaefer Halleen ready to proceed to public litigation, if necessary, and who won’t be satisfied with monetary compensation alone and no corrective action taken against the perpetrator.
Lawrence P. Schaefer has earned the respect of judges and other lawyers for his thorough and aggressive client advocacy in negotiation and litigation. He focuses exclusively on representing people who have been subject to employment discrimination at work. Larry serves as the firm’s President and head of litigation.