Sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem in the American workplace, with one in four women reporting being harassed on the job. Yet, in 2013, in Vance v. Ball State University, a narrow 5-to-4 majority of the Supreme Court watered down workplace protections from harassment. On Wednesday, the Maryland House Committee on Health and Government Oversight considered the Fair Employment Preservation Act (HB 42, SB 527)—a bill introduced by Delegate Rosenberg and Senator Raskin that would restore the strong protections from harassment that workers need. Adaku was there to testify for NWLC in support of this important legislation.
In Vance, the Supreme Court said that supervisors who direct employees’ daily work activities but don’t have the power to hire and fire are merely coworkers in the eyes of the law. The Court said that the strong protections available for harassment by a supervisor no longer apply when these individuals harass their victims. This is despite the fact that supervisors who direct their subordinates’ daily work have the power to make decisions that have a huge impact on workers’ lives. They decide who works the night shift and who works days, who cleans the toilets and who works the register, who can take a break and who cannot.
As a result of the Court’s decision, many victims of sexual harassment have been denied their day in court—simply because the courts said that their harassers were no longer supervisors in the eyes of the law and held them to the much tougher standard that courts apply to claims of harassment by coworkers.
The Fair Employment Preservation Act would restore the strong protections from supervisor harassment that workers need. Read our testimony to learn more about this important bill.