Rules, Measurements and a Tipping Point

I optimistically emerged from my post Futurama cartoon binge coma. I’m ready to write. How does this sound as a Hollywood policy and process for filing a sexual harassment claim?

The accuser must first engage in 30 days of counseling with a legal counselor in the Office of Compliance. After 30 days, they can choose to go into mediation with a representative within the office with whom they’re lodging complaint against. That mediation would last at least 30 days. When mediation is finished, the accuser must wait 30 days — but not wait longer than 90 days. It is only then, after those steps, could the accuser officially file a formal complaint and pursue a hearing either with the Office of Compliance or Federal District Court, but not both.

OK, you may or may not recognize this as the dispute resolution process for sexual harassment claims on Capital Hill for some 30,000 employees of the legislature. But wait, there is more. The settlements are paid by the US Treasury, not by the office against which the complaint is launched. The US taxpayers pay the sexual harassment settlements. There is proposed legislation underway to change this process and do regular reporting to gage if progress is being made.

This is logical, a rule is put in place and you need a measurement to determine if it’s working. The legislature has rules forbidding sexual harassment in the workplace, there needs to be a measurement to determine if it’s working.

The fair pay act passed  2009 – women should be paid the same as men for the same job. Data shows that women are still paid less than men, on the  average of 83 cents to the dollar. In 2014, President Obama enacted the fair pay and safe workplace order requiring companies to report how much they pay workers by race and gender. Obama’s executive order also barred forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims. These were known as coverup clauses. President Obama’s ban on “cover-up clauses” stopped companies with government contracts from using the forced arbitration clause to keep sex discrimination claims out of the courts and off the public record. Makes sense, there is a fair pay act, there needs to be a measurement to see if it’s working.

In April of this year, President Trump signed an executive order revoking the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. Hence, companies (that do work for the federal government)  do not have to provide data that would help determine if women are paid less than men for the same work and forced arbitration to keep sexual harassment out of the court continues. This is reprehensible especially in light of the existing policy on Capital Hill for sexual harassment claims. Are recent events signs of a tipping point? A point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change where the norm is equal pay for women and a harassment free environment? Or is that truly Futurama, something that only exists in a cartoon parody?

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