#MeToo, Sexual Harassment and Accountability: Considering the Role of Restorative Approaches
36 Ohio State J. Dispute Resolution 689 (2021)
48 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2020 Last revised: 5 Apr 2022
Date Written: July 7, 2020
Questions about the meaning of accountability for civil rights violations, and about what role the law can play in advancing accountability, are critically important to law reform. With respect to gender violence, the #MeToo movement has prompted widespread recognition of what feminists have long known, that sexual harassment is pervasive both in and out of the workplace. Yet its persistence, notwithstanding sexual harassment laws and policies that now have been on the books for decades, should spur reflection about what law and policy reforms actually would deter and prevent harassment, and what approaches would meaningfully advance equality at work.
Sexual harassment at work lies at the intersection of parallel critiques of anti-discrimination law and of criminal legal interventions in response to gender violence. Both critiques should be taken into account in developing workplace responses to sexual harassment. In both contexts, commentary as well as pilot programs have begun to explore the possibility of incorporating restorative programs to promote healing and redress harms.
This Article builds on those foundations and argues that workplaces should integrate restorative approaches into the options available to workers who raise sexual harassment complaints. It summarizes, and draws parallels between critiques of criminal legal regimes addressing gender violence, on the one hand, and workplace discrimination, on another. It describes principles common to restorative justice approaches and reviews the emerging research on the use of restorative justice with gender violence cases. It offers a beginning assessment of how restorative justice approaches might be incorporated into workplace sexual harassment responses, and identifies challenges that will have to be addressed for effective implementation.
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