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Coverage of Solomon Law Firm, PLLC Attorney Kathryn Barcroft’s #MeToo Panel Discussion at the New York Bar Association’s Presidential Summit

Barcroft served as member of the New York State Bar Association’s Presidential Summit panel entitled “Listening to #MeToo: Why Laws to Prevent Sexual Harassment Have Been Ineffective, and What Attorneys Can Do.”

As the #MeToo movement spread throughout the country in 2017, so did the advent of legislation aimed at combatting the epidemic. Nationally, Congress has enacted the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act, which is aimed at holding lawmakers personally accountable for sexual harassment complaints. Many states are creating their own sexual harassment legislation for the workplace. After last year’s new legislation, New York State is one of the most comprehensive states in terms of workplace sexual harassment laws and guidance on establishing workplace policies and sexual harassment trainings. The Presidential Summit panel, which took place on January 16, 2019, highlighted these changes through “examin[ing] the laws regarding sexual harassment and considered how attorneys can work to prevent it.” The panel members also discussed how to foster a sense of equality between men and women in the legal profession.

Other panel members were attorney Gregory S. Chiarello, attorney Carrie Goldberg, Susan Harper, the chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Women in Law Section. The panel was moderated by the Honorable Colleen McMahon, the chief judge for U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Important issues discussed involved the state of sexual harassment complaints in various workplaces, the effectiveness of training, and the public perception of victims who come forward. Panelists also discussed the backlash they’ve received for speaking out on these topics and ways in which those in the legal field can be better equipped to aid victims.

Barcroft specifically emphasized the problems many victims face in the workplace, which is a fear of retaliation for coming forward with their complaints. While the new legislation has made great headway, the victims still need to be protected enough to come forward with their complaints in the first place. Attorney Barcroft asserted that “…in a work environment there should be some level of accountability. I think the reason [the problem] persists, is not because there isn't enough training but because people continue to think they can get away with it.”

While the #MeToo movement has accelerated the development of new legislation aimed at protecting victims and preventing sexual harassment, there is still progress that needs to be made.