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For the victims of sexual harassment, it is already difficult enough to come forward to speak up, let alone file an official complaint with an employer. And when it comes to sexual harassment lawsuits, the Eighth Circuit doesn't seem to be very plaintiff-friendly, according to a Citypages writer that surveyed a few curious results from within the circuit.
Notably, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has only one single female active justice out of nine. Of the five judges on senior status, there is also one more female jurist. However, given how highly the circuit regards the high standard sexual harassment plaintiffs are held to, it's natural that those plaintiffs would perceive a hostility towards sexual harassment claims from the court that may run deeper than just a predominantly male bench.
Time for Stronger Laws?
The writer believes that lawmakers need to act to refine how judges evaluate claims of sexual harassment, noting that judges in the circuit regularly do not find that conduct was severe or pervasive enough. Oftentimes the decisions rejecting claims of sexual harassment elicit strong emotional responses because the conduct is simply so gross.
In the Blomker case from 2016, which is the launching point for the Citypage's author's point, a female employee's sexual harassment claim was denied despite having had a smirking co-worker approach her while he had an erection, among several other gross incidents. Somehow, she was fired for overreacting to an incident and calling her boss a "f***ing liar."
Another author, and prominent attorney, Jean Boler, believes that the courts are going to be the last institution to actually understand sexual harassment. She explains that courts increasingly up the ante when it comes to what constitutes severe and pervasive conduct, only allowing the very worst of it to qualify. Emphasizing that very point, Blomker also faced trouble because she once asked her employer if a harasser had to rape her before the company would do anything.