Five years after the introduction of the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act(EFASASH) by Senator Kristi Gillibrand and Senator Linsey Graham, President Biden signed it into law on March 3, 2022. Without this law, employers could prohibit their workers who have experienced sexual assault or harassment from seeking recourse in court. With EFASASH, sexual predators and their employers will no longer be able to evade public accountability. In a world where eighty-one percent of women have reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment and or assault in their lifetime, forced arbitration of sexual assault and harassment claims have only worked as a silencing mechanism.
In May of last year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Final Rule, amending the regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. With this guidance came a plethora of changes to how recipients of Federal financial assistance covered by Title IX must respond to allegations of sex-based discrimination. Amongst the most notable changes to these regulations, was the clarification that a reasonable person standard applies to certain elements which are, at times, necessary to prove sexual harassment under Title IX.
On May 19, 2020, the Department of Education published a final Title IX regulation that changes the rights and responsibilities for schools, complainants, and respondents. In summary, these regulations respond to the need to provide a prompt and just response to individuals who have suffered sexual harassment and provide due process for an alleged perpetrator. These changes create a standard grievance process, define conduct that constitutes sexual harassment, outline conditions that activate a school’s obligation to respond, impose a minimum standard of school response, and establish procedural due process protections.
The Trump administration has proposed new rules for schools dealing with sexual assault and harassment allegations that narrow the definition of sexual harassment and offering greater protections for the accused. Under the new rules, the Education Department is altering the procedures colleges that receive federal funding use to adjudicate complaints of assault and harassment. The new proposed rules come during the #MeToo movement, which will likely prove to be very controversial to both those who support the changes and those who oppose the changes. The federal guidelines stem from Title IX, which bars sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.