Steven Blackburn Quoted in Article, “Sexual Harassment: Do Training Programs Reduce Offenses?”

CQ Researcher

Steven Blackburn, a Member of the Firm in the Labor and Employment practice and the Managing Shareholder of firm's San Francisco office, was quoted in an article titled "Sexual Harassment: Do Training Programs Reduce Offenses?" written by Barbara Mantel.

Following is an excerpt:

Now a decade and a half later, much about sexual harassment in the workplace has changed. Allegations of sexual harassment are less often about an obvious "quid pro quo" — in which a supervisor's unwanted sexual advances affect a subordinate's employment — and more often about creating an intimidating work environment.

Most large companies and many smaller ones now have explicit sexual harassment policies, grievance procedures and anti-harassment training programs. And the number of formal charges of workplace sexual harassment filed with government agencies has been declining for the past four years. State and local governments and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) — which investigates employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act — received a total of 11,364 complaints of sexual harassment last year, nearly 30 percent fewer than the peak of 15,889 reached in 1997 ?...

But San Francisco corporate attorney Steve Blackburn says speed and lower costs have "pretty minimal value." Moreover, he says, what employers initially perceived to be the many advantages of arbitration have "evaporated" in California and in many other states. Blackburn says after the Supreme Court's 2001 decision, many companies began overreaching in imposing arbitration. They began limiting the availability of punitive damages allowed under law, requiring employees to cover part of the costs of arbitration and restricting the recovery of attorney fees if the employee prevailed.

"Virtually all of those efforts . . . have been struck down by the courts," says Blackburn. So while half of the large corporations he represents have a mandatory arbitration clause, "if you came to me as an employer today and asked if mandatory arbitration is a good idea, I would probably tell you no, not really," says Blackburn.