U.S. Capitol Shutterstock image by W. Scott McGill

Bill offers judiciary employees sex harass protections

A five-decades-old Supreme Court decision remains the sole and increasingly unworkable linchpin of sexual harassment protection available to judicial branch employees—because such workers did not and still do not have specific laws safeguarding their rights in this area. 

That case, Bivens vs. Six (1971), in part has filled in for a lack of any specific statute to protect “third branch” feds, by highlighting their right to redress under the more general “equal protection” clause offered by the Fourteenth Amendment. Unfortunately, over time courts have diluted and even ignored this ruling, according to advocates. Urgent action is needed. 

This week, leaders with two reform organizations issued an editorial on how to fix the problem, published by Bloomberg, primarily by pressing for a legislative fix—the Judicial Accountability Act, a bill pending in Congress that would give these vulnerable employees the same avenues of redress enjoyed across the rest of government. The argument for doing so builds on previous essays, for instance one published by Roll Call shortly after the bill was introduced last summer.

The authors of the latest piece—Ally Coll of the Purple Campaign against sexual harassment and Dylan Hosmer-Quint of the judiciary reform group Fix the Court—note that “indifference” to sexual harassment is a pervasive problem, but only employees with our federal court system are stuck working without specific legal protections and sanctions aimed at bosses and co-workers who engage in it. 

2021 Digital Almanac

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