Since strengthening its policies against sexual harassment complaints in 2015, the Missouri legislature has faced twice as many allegations of sexual misconduct as it did in the two years prior. Whether this is a result of more misconduct being committed by legislators or it is the impact of having created an environment in which victims are more comfortable making their complaints known remains unclear.
In 2015, Todd Richardson took over as speaker for Jeff Diehl who resigned after admitting that he had sent sexually charged text messages to a college intern. Richardson vowed to strengthen the legislature’s sexual harassment policy and said he believed that new measures would lead to a quicker resolution.
New Regulations Inspired by High Profile Cases of Sexual Misconduct
Inspired by the high-profile cases of sexual misconduct by individuals like Harvey Weinstein that seemed to have had a cascade effect on a number of prominent individuals in Hollywood and inspired the #METOO movement, the Missouri House and Senate updated their policies in the Fall of 2017 to conform to the reality that sexual harassment is far more common than people were led to believe.
Since then, many legislatures all across the US have made significant changes to their policies to create a healthier and safer work environment for their employees. However, in documents released to the media, no specific individuals were named. Missouri lawmakers currently recruit private law firms to investigate claims against the accused and then submits those reports to the House Ethics committee.
Can Students File Sexual Harassment Claims Against Schools?
While Missouri’s legislature is held to a different standard and processes claims of sexual harassment differently than the private sector, many wonder if schools can be held liable for allowing a hostile work environment toward its students.
The answer is yes.
Schools are considered analogous to employers, and claims of sexual harassment in schools are taken seriously. When a student brings a matter to a guidance counselor or a teacher, either would be responsible for seeing that the behavior is curbed to the extent possible. In this case, failure to punish the offending student is considered analogous to creating a hostile work environment for an employee. In both cases, those with a responsibility to foster a nurturing work environment are negligent in instances in which they do not.
Several Missouri courts have ruled that students do not give up Title IX protections simply because they are students. The school, whether it is public or private, is responsible for protecting its students against sexual harassment. This means that they can be held liable according to the same standards to which employers are held liable under Missouri law.
Proving Negligence in Sexual Harassment Cases
In order to hold either a school or an employer liable for sexual harassment and fostering a hostile work environment, the victim must show that despite attempts to bring the matter to the attention of those in a position to remedy it, the behavior continued. This shows negligence on the part of the employer and the school and forms the basis of any claim against them.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, the law says it does not matter whether you are a student, employee, or member of the Missouri legislature. You are entitled to a safe workplace. HKM Employment Attorneys of Kansas City have handled numerous sexual misconduct claims and gotten our clients the settlements they deserve. Give us a call at 816.607.4691, and we will discuss your case right away.