Anna Elento-Sneed


Sexual Harassment and the #MeToo Movement were the topics of our March Speaker, Anna Elento-Sneed, President and Founding Director of ES&A Law Firm.  Anna eloquently educated the audience on a brief history of sexual harassment issues and shared how women's equality issues paralleled her own career from attending an all-male college to her work as an attorney in the labor and employment field. 

Anna shared that in the early 80’s, law schools were 30 percent women and gender discrimination, not sexual harassment, was a huge topic.  But, the focus was on the law rather than women's stories and experiences.  By 1986, however, the concept of sexual harassment had evolved and was required to be considered in the workplace.  With high-profile cases, such as Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment against then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, the U.S. Navy's Tailhook scandal, and landmark Supreme Court cases on sexual harassment that allowed companies to be sued over sexual harassment, awareness of the concept of sexual harassment was on the rise.

Initially, sexual harassment was generally considered to be male to female and female to male, but in the later 1980s the concept evolved and began to include male to male and female to female.  By 1998, sexual harassment litigation had increased to a point where it threatened to paralyze the court system. That same year, the Supreme Court held in the case of Faragher v. City of Boca Raton that employers may be liable for supervisory employee acts that result in a hostile work environment.  Therefore, employers must establish policies on behavior acceptable in the workplace.

Fast forward to 2018 and the #MeeToo movement.  We still have issues.  Women now feel that if they cannot report upward, then report outward. Women are now coming forward years after events have taken place to report cases of sexual harassment, although we don't each individual's reason for waiting - whether it's fear of reprisal or a personal agenda, clearly sexual harassment is still an issue in society.

Anna's final thought.  To combat sexual harassment in the workplace and prevent a company from being held liable for the acts of its supervisors and employees, the company must establish guidelines and it must educate its employees.  Webinar training is not effective, the spoken word is better.