Oct 10, 2019

#MeToo movement drives more state-mandated sexual harassment training

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A handful of new, individual state regulations has resulted in mandatory sexual harassment training for 20% of the workers in the U.S., Bloomberg reports.

Context: That means 1 in 5 workers are now offered such education, as opposed to 1 in 100 as of 2 years ago, Bloomberg adds.

Why it matters: The #MeToo movement got off the ground roughly 2 years ago and spurred unprecedented misconduct reporting in Hollywood and in the media, as well as by other workers who withstood harassment in their workplaces.

Driving the news: This week, New York state passed a law requiring organizations to teach employees about harassment and simplify the process to file and track complaints.

Meanwhile, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington and Illinois passed or revamped laws over the past 2 years to expand training options.

  • Tech and media companies, including Google, as well as political offices continue to grapple with public demand to improve the process around sexual harassment.
  • Recently, individual states have passed a variety of laws limiting forced arbitration, nondisclosure agreements and other policies that could discourage employees from reporting harassment, Bloomberg notes.

Many companies already provided materials for sexual harassment training, but a 2015 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission task force found that the training largely existed to protect employers from lawsuits instead of teaching people how to spot and report bad behavior.

Background: Workplace sexual harassment was deemed illegal in a 1986 Supreme Court ruling.

  • Two court rulings in the late '80s set a precedent that a business could defend itself against some sexual harassment claims, as long as that organization had a stated and enforceable policy against the practice.

But, but, but: Three-quarters of incidents still go unreported, government data estimates. And more than a third of American workers said they believe their workplace fosters sexual misconduct, per a 2019 survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

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Major U.S. cities have implemented curfews and called on National Guard to mobilize as thousands of demonstrators gather across the nation to continue protesting the death of George Floyd.

The state of play: Hundreds have already been arrested as tensions continue to rise between protesters and local governments. Protesters are setting police cars on fire as freeways remain blocked and windows are shattered, per the Washington Post. Law enforcement officials are using tear gas and rubber bullets to try to disperse crowds and send protesters home.

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Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

Clashes erupted between law enforcement and protesters in several major U.S. cities Saturday night as demonstrations over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black men spread across the country.

The big picture: Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody is the latest reminder of the disparities between black and white communities in the U.S. and comes as African Americans grapple with higher death rates from the coronavirus and higher unemployment from trying to stem its spread.