By Mark Carey:
If public shaming is the new normal for dealing with sexual harassers, then how do we fix the ineffective sexual harassment laws currently in place? I have the quick fix and it makes perfect sense.
Make Sexual Harassers Personally Liable
Currently, when sexual harassers do their evil deeds, there is no penalty. Under federal law, only employers are liable. In a few states, offenders are held personally liable, for example Massachusetts and Ohio. If the harasser understands that placing his hand on a woman’s breast or other body part has a $150,000 price tag for the single act, the harasser will think twice. If the harasser also understands that they could lose their job in addition to paying a huge settlement to the victim, then they would avoid groping other employees.
Remove the Caps on Damages Under Federal Law
Under federal law, damages for sexual harassment offenses are capped at $300,000 for both back pay and punitive damages. Trust me, this compromise struck between Congressional Democrats and Republicans in enacting the 1991 Civil Rights Act was far too low to make any real difference to deter sexual harassment. We need to remove the cap on damages that were promoted by the Washington D.C. K Street lobbyists whom promoted the caps in the first place.
Make All Settlements of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Public But Conceal Victim Identities
I recently wrote about making sexual harassment settlements transparent. Transparency of all sexual harassment settlements will deter both the employers and employees from engaging in unwanted sexual harassment. We would hope that companies do more to take care of the very employees who promote the employer’s products and services; the same employees who have close professional relationships with their customers and vendors. While transparency will add further deterrence, we also need to conceal the identities of the victims of sexual harassment in settlement agreements. There is no need to harm these victims any further.
All Perpetrators of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Will be Listed on the National Sex Offenders Registry
If the price tag for an occasional groping did not stop bad behavior, the next solution will. Currently we have a nationwide sex offender registry. If you are convicted of criminal or civil sexual assault, you are automatically registered on the sex offender registry. We now need to modify current state and federal laws regarding sexual harassment at work and place all perpetrators of sexual assault and harassment on that list.
Provide a Tax Deduction to Victims of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment for Pursuing Claims of Discrimination
Prior to the 2018 tax overhaul, victims of sexual harassment could claim a tax deduction for legal fees and expenses in pursuit of sexual harassment claims. The tax act removed that benefit from both employers and employees. I propose reinstating the tax benefit only to employees who are the victims of sexual harassment. Frankly, it is morally the correct thing to do. We should not be cutting victims off at the knees.
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