In observing the 2020 Democratic presidential primary – which has featured as many six women – it seems possible that this time might be different than past elections, where the lone female candiate has been singled out for gendered criticism. Not because sexism has left the building, but because the critical mass of women candidates may have changed the dynamic.
"As a professor and employment lawyer who has followed the #MeToo movement since Kantor and Twohey’s award-winning expose in 2017, I expected their book to relay the stories of the women who publicly accused Weinstein. Of course, there’s plenty of that. What I didn’t expect – but perhaps should have – was how central lawyers would be to their story."
One of the first thing students learn in law school is that “easy cases” refer to those in which the facts are really extreme – where a rule clearly applies or it doesn’t. Here, that would mean egregious examples of sexual harassment, such as allegations of Matt Lauer’s lewd and aggressive behavior toward subordinates. “Hard cases” refer to situations where it’s harder to figure out whether the parties involved have violated the rule. There might be arguments on both sides, and it might be hard to predict how a court would rule. Or – a favored trap on the bar exam – the conduct might seem really bad as a matter of common sense but doesn’t meet the technical requirements of the legal rule.
For decades, victims of sexual harassment have remained silent about their experiences. The emergence of the #MeToo movement in the aftermath of the scandal surrounding movie mogul Harvey Weinstein raises larger questions about whether employers are partly to blame for their silence, particularly through the use of nondisclosure agreements. Such contracts, written to keep details of business practices or a settlement confidential, are now in the sights of lawmakers. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Washington are all considering bills that would declare such provisions unenforceable. Are confidentiality clauses to blame for all those years of silence? And will legal changes offer victims more freedom in deciding whether to speak out?