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Pro-Employee Sexual Harassment Decisions Up Seven Fold since #Metoo

By: Floyd J. Dugas, Esq.

A recently published study by a law professor and a political science professor revealed that plaintiffs in sexual harassment lawsuits brought in Federal District Court between 2016 and 2020 were seven times more likely to prevail than pre-#metoo claims.

Exactly why is not clear.  Some legal commentators suspect judges have been swayed by the social justice movement.  Perhaps it is that the Federal judges, historically older males, finally “get it.”  Efforts to address harassment claims within the judiciary, by law clerks and staff, could also account for the shift. 

The study also found that a plaintiff’s likelihood of success in a Federal Court of Appeals actually decreased signaling that perhaps some District Court judges responsible for the uptick mis-applied the law in some cases. What does this mean for employers?  It is unclear if this was a temporary reaction to the social justice movement or a more permanent shift.  But it certainly suggests employers should treat claims of sexual harassment more seriously and should be less inclined to dismiss claims as untrue, and perhaps utilize independent investigators more often to make certain that where sexual harassment is occurring (and it is in most organizations) that it is uncovered and properly addressed, otherwise they face the increased probability of an adverse determination if the employee ends up filing a sexual harassment lawsuit in Federal court.