Cosby Verdict Does Not Mean Sexual Misconduct Laws Do Not Need to Change

April 30, 2018

The recent conviction of Bill Cosby on sexual assault charges is being heralded as evidence of a change in how the law and the courts respond to sexual misconduct and sexual harassment complaints. Accepting the verdict as a testament to the impact of the #MeToo movement and the revelations about misconduct by some of the biggest names in entertainment, politics, and government, it’s important to remember the comedian’s first trial ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to agree on a verdict. It might be safer to see the verdict as a small step on a long road that society, the courts, and the legislature must follow before women can feel safe.

The court system has not been a friendly forum for victims of sexual harassment

We reported in a blog post a few months ago that 14 million women admit to being the victims of sexual abuse in the workplace, according to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News. It also disclosed that sexual harassment at work has been a problem for at least 33 million women who have been targeted. Almost all of the women responding to the poll and revealing themselves to be victims said no action was taken against the offenders.

The lack of punitive or corrective action taken against offenders could be one of the reasons National Public Radio reported that only 5 percent of sexual misconduct victims ever report the incident. Another reason could be the extremely percentage of cases, only 3 to 6 percent, that ever get to the trial stage of those complaints making it into the judicial system.

Increasing the success rate in courts calls for action by California legislators

While legislators in California ponder doing something about the burden proof confronting victims of sexual harassment in the workplace who seek redress through the courts, New York City Council has done something by changing the definition of sexual harassment. Under current law in California, a victim of sexual harassment must prove the offending conduct was severe and pervasive. This frequently assigns judges the task of deciding whether the conduct was enough to constitute sexual harassment without providing a clear standard by which to make such a judgment.

New York City abandoned the severe and pervasive standard as an indicter of a violation of the law in favor one that simply defines sexual harassment as occurring when someone engages in more than petty slights or trivial inconvenience. Easing the burden victims must meet to prove a hostile work environment caused by sexual harassment has worked in New York City, and it could work in California if the legislature would change the law as it said it was going to do when we wrote about it in January.

An experienced sexual harassment attorney can help

The dedicated attorneys at The Cifarelli Law Firm, LLP, have been aggressively pursuing claims for compensation on behalf of victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse for more than 25 years. Our knowledge of the law and our experience result in innovative strategies designed to achieve the maximum compensation for our clients. Contact us today by calling (949) 502-8600 or use the form on our website to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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