Two Decades after Anita Hill: How Workplaces Are Handling Sexual Harassment

By Haq, Husna | The Christian Science Monitor, November 14, 2011 | Go to article overview

Two Decades after Anita Hill: How Workplaces Are Handling Sexual Harassment


Haq, Husna, The Christian Science Monitor


Sexual misconduct allegations against GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain have put a spotlight on secret settlements, which many businesses are turning to in sexual harassment cases.

The issue of sexual harassment in the workplace was seared into the national consciousness when, in 1991, Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of making harassing sexual statements at his confirmation hearings to be a US Supreme Court justice.

Since then, businesses have undertaken countless hours of sexual harassment seminars, employers have heeded legislation that makes them liable for punitive damages in these kinds of cases, and several high-profile class action lawsuits - particularly in the 1990s - have ended in the awarding of big damages to victims of harassment.

Yet even with all this, workplaces have seen sexual harassment claims go down just slightly in the past decade.

Now, some 20 years after the Thomas hearings, sexual misconduct allegations against GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain are drawing fresh attention to the issue of sexual harassment.

In particular, the controversy surrounding Mr. Cain has put a spotlight on secret settlements - legal agreements with confidentiality clauses that prohibit accusing parties from disclosing details about the alleged misconduct, in return for money or other benefits.

The National Restaurant Association, which Cain headed in the late 1990s, entered into secret settlements with two women who accused the businessman of unwanted sexual advances. The NRA reportedly paid the women $35,000 and $45,000.

Such settlements are gaining popularity, say workplace discrimination experts. With these secret agreements, employers can avert costly legal fees, and as important, damaging publicity. But many see worrisome consequences.

The use of confidential settlements "started in the '90s, and it's really taken off since," says Julie Berebitsky, a professor of history and women's studies at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., and author of the forthcoming book "Sex and the Office: A History of Gender, Power, and Desire." She adds, "Moving forward, I think that's where we're headed."

As of press time, four women had made sexual harassment accusations against Cain, a front-runner in the GOP presidential field. Of the NRA cases, one woman has revealed her identity - Karen Kraushaar, now a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department. She had not disclosed details of the case as of Nov. 9, but she did allege that Cain made a "series of inappropriate behaviors and unwanted advances."

The other accuser to go public, Sharon Bialek, claimed that Cain reached up her skirt, saying when she protested, "You want a job, don't you?"

Cain emphatically denies all the allegations. In a CBS News poll conducted from Nov. 6 to 10, he holds the top spot among GOP presidential candidates. But the poll also indicates that he has lost some support, particularly among women and conservatives.

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 made race-, religion-, and sex-based discrimination illegal. The term "sexual harassment" was coined by feminists in 1975, and soon after, courts began holding that it was prohibited in workplaces under Title VII of the act.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which tracks workplace discrimination, defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature." The EEOC adds, "Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person's sex."

Sexual harassment claims climbed through the 1990s, peaking at 15,889 in 1997, according to the EEOC. (Reliable figures are not available for years prior to 1990.) Claims began dropping off in the 2000s, falling to 11,717 in 2010, which yielded some $48.4 million in monetary benefits for charging parties. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Two Decades after Anita Hill: How Workplaces Are Handling Sexual Harassment
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.