Sexual Harassment Cases Often Rejected By Courts

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Publish Date:
November 28, 2017
Author(s):
  • Noguchi, Yuki
Source:
Peoria Public Radio WCBU 89.9
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Summary

Many actors, politicians and executives, including at NPR, are now facing sexual-harassment allegations in the court of public opinion.

But in actual courts, such cases filed by workers against their employers are very often dismissed by judges. The standard for harassment under the law is high, and only an estimated 3 percent to 6 percent of the cases ever make it to trial.

“Courts have really required the situation to be pretty hellish before they’ll find it actionable,” says Deborah Rhode, director of Stanford’s Center on the Legal Profession.

She says judges often are older and male, and lack an understanding of the emotional, psychological and professional damage harassment can do. “So it’s men behaving badly on the bench, and in the office,” Rhode says.

“Often times it takes a kind of cultural consciousness raising moment like the one that we’re having now to force a reevaluation of standards,” Rhode says.

“Everything that we’ve seen on the #MeToo hashtag suggests that there’s a lot of pent-up fury out there, and more of these women I think are going to seek legal recourse and attorneys in this social climate are going to think they’re more likely to win and get substantial damages,” she says.

NOGUCHI: Some judges downgrade an offense if the groping didn’t result in direct skin contact or if there’s no proof that the victim objected to the sexual advances. These opinions became calcified in law because both state and federal trial court judges would cite them as precedent for subsequent case dismissals. Only two percent of plaintiffs win. Deborah Rhode is director of Stanford’s Center on the Legal Profession. She says judges, who are often older and male, lack an understanding of harassment’s impact.

DEBORAH RHODE: Oftentimes, it takes a kind of cultural consciousness-raising moment like the one that we’re having now to force a re-evaluation of standards.

RHODE: Everything that we’ve seen on the #MeToo hashtag suggests that there’s a lot of pent-up fury out there. And more of these women, I think, are going to seek legal recourse, and attorneys in this social climate are going to think they’re more likely to win and get substantial damages.

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