Protecting victims of sexual harassment in the workplace is a priority for attorneys general across the United States in a letter to federal lawmakers.
North Carolina Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein joined with Florida’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in rallying attorneys general from all 50 states plus six United States territories in hopes of urging United States lawmakers to pass legislation that “protects victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.”
The letter to federal leadership focuses on ending “forced arbitration for sexual harassment claims to protect victims’ fundamental right to their day in court.”
“For far too long, victims of sexual harassment have not benefited from the justice they deserve,” Stein said in a release. “We must change the policies and practices that silence victims and ensure that they have full access to the justice system. Congress must act to make our workplaces safer and more just. I am proud to be joined by so many of my counterparts across the country.”
The letter comes on the heels of the growing momentum of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements working to shed light on sexual harassment and assault across the country.
Those movements were part of the reason UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said she focused on sexual harassment in her letter to the campus community beginning the spring 2018 semester.
Folt said at the UNC Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month that it was important to create a safe environment for all students on campus.
“What are we going to do to make people feel safe,” Folt said, “both to express themselves, also if they’re worried and concerned to bring that forward, how do you make sure that there isn’t retaliation.
“And I think we’re looking at the breadth of that.”
The university adopted new sexual harassment and assault policies at the beginning of Folt’s tenure in Chapel Hill, and she said it’s important to never view that work as being finished.
“This is part of a philosophy that you are constantly trying to improve,” Folt said. “And so, when we even put the policies in my first year, we said every year or every other year we’d go back and we’d look at those policies and we’d investigate them.”
Folt also pointed to the university launching the Office of Ethics and Integrity in 2016 that allows for easier reporting for victims to avoid retaliation.
“One of the big tools we’re trying to do is just eliminate redundancy and highlight the policies that are there,” Folt said. “It’s part of our ongoing work. But I think we felt like this deserves high-level attention, they need to know that the senior leaders are very much on board with this. And we really do expect and want to see ourselves adhering to the highest possible standards.”