Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited in Chicago. To further instill this message, in April 2022, Mayor Lightfoot and the Commission on Human Relations amended the sexual harassment laws (Human Rights Ordinance) to provide sharpened tools to employers and employees for preventing sexual harassment. These amendments strengthened the existing laws in strictly enforcing zero tolerance of violence and harassment in the workplace through written employment policies, posters, and training. Starting July 1, 2022, strict compliance with these amendments became the standard throughout Chicago.
* Content warning: This piece contains references to sexual assault and harassment.
In an article entitled Reality or Fiction, Nina Jane Patel shared her experience with sexual harassment in the Metaverse. She repeatedly asked fellow users to stop and tried to move away, but they followed her, continuing their verbal assault and sexual advances. In part, she writes, “they touched and groped while they took selfies. They were laughing, they were aggressive, and relentless. I froze. It was a nightmare.” As she tried to escape the situation, she could still hear them – “don’t pretend you didn’t love it, this is why you came here.” After the assault, she couldn’t report it to the police, and no suit was filed against the group of four men.
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.