Legal Momentum News Brief—Week of April 9, 2018

Legal Momentum News Brief—Week of April 9, 2018

April 13, 2018 - 14:24 -- Jean Gazis
April 13, 2018

Legal Momentum Files EEOC Complaint against Red Cross 

On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, Legal Momentum took legal action by filing an EEOC charge of sexual harassment, sex discrimination, and disability discrimination on behalf of a former employee of the American National Red Cross. Our client (name withheld upon request) first called the Legal Momentum Helpline because she was being subjected to sexual harassment at work. Legal Momentum helped her report the harassment internally to her employer. Unfortunately, the Red Cross was unresponsive and indifferent to our client’s repeated requests for assistance. It discouraged and discounted her complaints.  

Our client submitted documentary evidence showing that a volunteer had engaged in ongoing sexual harassment that created a hostile work environment for her. Despite her documentation, the Red Cross, without giving any other evidence, found that her complaint was “unsubstantiated.” It provided no rationale or explanation for this determination nor any information regarding the steps it took in its investigation. Ultimately, the Red Cross not only failed to correct the situation, it engaged in punitive measures—masked as “accommodations”—that resulted in our client leaving her position at the Red Cross.

Legal Momentum found that, far from taking a proactive role to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, the Red Cross’s procedures were vague, haphazard, purposefully shrouded in secrecy, and geared towards safeguarding the person accused of harassment. In fact, instead of taking any corrective action in our client’s case, the Red Cross proactively retained the volunteer after his prior contract ended—despite our client’s repeated complaints. The end result of this type of sexual harassment policy and procedure is a workplace culture that tolerates sexual harassment and forces women to leave their jobs to escape it. The media has recently reported on these issues at the national Red Cross organization.

Backpage.com Shut Down!

On April 6, the Department of Justice seized Backpage. They shut down its website and indicted its founders. On April 12, Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer entered a plea deal on several charges and the company pleaded guilty to trafficking. These decisive actions followed soon after the passage of the FOSTA-SESTA anti-trafficking legislation that Legal Momentum helped shepherd through Congress. 

New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, who was a strong supporter of the FOSTA-SESTA bill, invited Legal Momentum Board Chair G. Elaine Wood and Boies Schiller Flexner attorney Karen Dyer to speak at a press conference held at New York City Hall to celebrate the historic legislation and the shutting down of Backpage. The new law, signed by the President on April 11, will make it easier for survivors to sue the websites that knowingly facilitate trafficking. While Legal Momentum and Boies Schiller Flexner are already suing Backpage in Florida court on behalf of a trafficking survivor and Florida Abolitionist (a provider of services to survivors), other survivors will now be empowered to take legal action as well.

An Activist and Survivor Speaks Out on FOSTA-SESTA

An April 5 article on FeministCurrent.com, INTERVIEW: Marian Hatcher sets the record straight on the new U.S. anti-trafficking bill, FOSTA-SESTA,cites Legal Momentum’s research and provides an excellent explanation of why trafficking survivors and the organizations that represent them advocated for this important new legislation.

Legal Momentum Helps Pass More Legislation on Sextortion

Legal Momentum has been having great success in our anti-sextortion legislative advocacy efforts! In the last week of March, sexual extortion statutes that we worked to get passed were signed into law in Arizona and West Virginia. 

In New York, a sextortion provision was also passed within the state budget as part of Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Agenda.  Legal Momentum worked with the Governor’s Office on the sextortion bill. The New York budget also included several other measures that advance women’s equality across a spectrum of issues—in particular, comprehensive anti-sexual harassment measures. The New York anti-sextortion bill as passed by the legislature, however, did not contain the specific language Legal Momentum and the Governor's office had advocated for, so Legal Momentum will continue to advocate for additional legislation in New York. We also have great momentum in several other states, including Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C., which each appears likely to pass a new anti-sextortion bill in its current legislative session.

18th Annual Aiming High Awards Luncheon—Save the Date!

Legal Momentum’s 2018 Aiming High Awards event will take place on Thursday, June 7, at Cipriani 42nd Street in New York City. 

The Aiming High Awards celebrate the power of women and the luncheon offers an exceptional networking opportunity. The 2018 honorees are:

  • Cathy Engelbert, Chief Executive Officer, Deloitte
  • Sari Granat, Executive Vice President & General Counsel, IHS Markit
  • William E. Ford, Chief Executive Officer, General Atlantic—Man of Distinction Honoree

There will be a networking reception at 11:30 a.m., followed by the luncheon and program from 12:30–2:00 p.m. Register online, or email friends@legalmomentum.org for more information.

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