With the #MeToo movement, the “severe or pervasive” standard is starting to be challenged by state legislators and legal practitioners. Given the realities of a movement that has uncovered a stark imbalance of power between victims of sexual harassment and management in the workplace, is “severe or pervasive” just another societal bar to justice? While a handful of states, including New York, have taken affirmative steps to alter or attempt to alter the standard, New York City has been at the forefront of this issue for several years, having established a standard for sexual harassment that is more relaxed than the federal standard.
While California has recently passed legislation implementing a lower standard, more akin to the New York City standard, the question remains whether other states, including New York state, will adopt a lower standard which will positively impact the probability of success in sexual harassment claims tried in court. With many recent headlines concerning sexual harassment in the press, there should be a corresponding correlation with the number of victims who have their sexual harassment cases heard in court; if there is no such correlation, it could perhaps mean that the law should be changed in order to alter the legal landscape for sexual harassment that currently exists in the United States.
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