Americans are finally confronting the widespread problem of sexual harassment and assault. There are many facets to the issue, but this conversation focused on the workplace policies and laws that protect workers and managers.
On January 12, Laural Porter from KGW spoke with Mariann Hyland, an Assistant Vice Provost in the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs at the University of Oregon; attorney Dana Sullivan; and Lisa LeSage, the Executive Director of Immigration Counseling Service. They spoke about legal definitions, the history of sexual harassment awareness in the U.S., and what we can do to prevent harassment in the future.
Hyland framed the issue as a continuation of the civil rights movement. LeSage added, “This kind of harassment has been happening for decades—what’s new is that women now have some avenues to be heard.”
Sullivan provided some legal context for what’s happening right now. She said that the bar for proving harassment is remarkably high. Courts define harassment as “severe and pervasive.” In other words, if comments or actions are subtle, it will be hard to prove in court that they constitute harassment.
The panel recounted the Anita Hill hearings, pointing out that in the context of #MeToo, those hearings take on new meaning. They also discussed the prevalence of harassment complaints in state legislatures—about half of states are currently dealing with sexual harassment claims.
What can be done? The panel agreed that having processes that protect confidentiality and investigate cases rigorously is an important step. Hyland added that men can be allies by bringing more “conscious awareness” to what they say and do.
You can find a full write up of the January recap of the Friday Forums, and more, over at the City Club of Portland blog.