Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘sexual assault victims’

After Rolling Stone’s UVa. Retraction, Randi Weingarten Shares Personal Story of Sexual Assault

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

In the wake of Rolling Stone‘s statement that it could not stand by the veracity of its bombshell piece detailing an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, anti-sexual assault activists around the country performed a collective facepalm. By failing to properly fact-check the anonymous victim’s account and then walking back the story, the magazine practically invited the slimiest corners of the Right to engage in victim-blaming, slut-shaming and all-around vicious misogyny.

It’s a moment when feminist allies need to speak out on behalf of women’s rights and loudly insist that sexual violence is an epidemic that has to be taken seriously. In the past, however, unions often have not been willing to speak out about sexual assault—even among those that have attempted to carry out a broad progressive agenda, or those with large female memberships.

So it was a welcome surprise to see American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten strongly weighing in on the issue Jezebel yesterday, explaining little-covered efforts by her union to fight sexual assault on college campuses—and detailing her own experience with sexual assault:

“It was just after my junior year in college. I had an internship in labor relations at an automobile plant in Warren, Ohio. A New Yorker from birth, I was out of my element. I tried to find community to anchor my summer in Warren. I did what was familiar: I went to shul. One family invited me over for Shabbat dinner. Dutifully and hopefully, I went. They also invited a young man. He was nice enough. So, when this “nice Jewish guy” invited me for dinner, I said, “Sure.”

“A few days later, I went to his apartment. And that’s where it happened. He tried to rape me. I managed to get out after a struggle, but the emotional scarring was deep.”

She goes on to recall how the assault stayed with her for decades, and why she never spoke about it publicly:

“I didn’t report it. I thought it was my fault. I thought I should have known better. I should have been smarter.”

“I carried it with me for years and years. The shame and the fear faded but never erased completely as I graduated from college and law school, then became a lawyer, a teacher and a union leader.”

Weingarten also gives an example of what a labor movement committed to fighting sexual assault can accomplish, saying her union was central to pushing for a strong sexual assault policies at the State University of New York—what one administrator called “the most comprehensive, victim-centered set of sexual assault policies at any college campus or system of higher education in the country.” And today, the AFT launched a petition calling for a national campus sexual assault bill.

In recent years, the AFT has often been a strongly progressive union on social issues, and backing a national sexual assault bill seems to fit in with the AFL-CIO’s recent commitments to be a part of a broader progressive movement that includes the feminist movement. But rarely do such commitments come with public declarations of such deeply personal stories as Weingarten’s. If more union leaders like her can take her lead to speak up about the epidemic of sexual assault around the country, and can commit to pushing for those commitments at the rank-and-file level, it could be greatly strengthen the movement against sexual assault while expanding the purview of the American labor movement.

This blog original appeared in Inthesetimes.com on December 16, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17463/aft_randi_weingarten_sexual_assault_story

About the author: Micah Uetricht is the web editor of In These Times. He is a contributing editor at Jacobin and the author of Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity. He has written for The Nation, Al Jazeera America, Dissent, and the Chicago Reader.

New Jersey Domestic Violence Leave Bill Receives Final Legislative Approval

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Sabrina_Sandhu_webLast week the full New Jersey General Assembly granted final legislative approval for bill A-2919/S-2177, known as the “New Jersey Security and Financial Empowerment Act” or “NJ SAFE Act”.  If signed into law by the Governor, the Act would allow eligible employees who are victims or whose family members are victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault to take up to 20 days of job protected leave per year to handle issues related to the abuse or assault. Specifically, the Act provides that leave may be taken to seek medical attention for injuries, obtain services from a victim services organization, obtain counseling, participate in safety planning, relocate or engage in other activities to ensure the safety of the employee or employee’s family member, seek legal assistance, and participate in legal proceedings.

Eligible employees under the Act would be required to take their leave within 1 year of the incident.  Eligible employees are defined as those employees who have been employed for at least 12 months, and for at least 1,000 hours during the immediately preceding 12 month period.  Prior to approving the leave of an eligible employee, an employer would be permitted to request documentation of the basis for the leave.  Additionally, employers may request that eligible employees first exhaust any accrued paid leave provided by the employer, or leave afforded by the Family Leave Act and federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  Employers with less than 25 employees are exempt from this proposed legislation.

Importantly, the Act provides for a civil cause of action against employers in alleged violation of its provisions.  Should this legislation become law, the effective date will be the first day of the third month following enactment, and employers will be required to display a conspicuous notice of employee rights and obligations under the Act. Please check back periodically for updates about this legislation.

This article was originally printed on NJ Labor and Employment Law on May 28, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Sabrina Sandhu is an associate at Giordano, Halleran & Ciesla.  She counsels employers with regard to workplace policies and manuals, and general litigation avoidance.

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