I’d like to thank ‘DealBook’ , Elizabeth Olson and the New York Times for publishing this article and for bringing this to my attention.
I’ve personal experience with ‘attorneys’ making sexist remarks….I think it may be that the profession use to ‘enjoy’ a majority of male members and over the years that has changed….some men have a hard time with that fact while others are just basically misogynists…who can’t seem to alter their behavior….
“This ethics rule now forbids comments or actions that single out someone on the basis of race, religion, sex, disability and other factors. Nearly two dozen state bars and the District of Columbia bar have similar rules. But, until recently, there has been no national prohibition of such behavior, which, many female lawyers complain, results in too many ‘honeys’, ‘darlings’ (I hate the word ‘darling’) and other sexist remarks and gestures toward them while they are trying to practice their profession.
Without a flat prohibition, advocates of the rule said, ‘using demeaning and misogynistic terms and actions to undermine opposing counsel and others too often does not have consequences.
Any penalties would be determined by state bar associations and might include fines or suspension from practice, depending on the severity of the offense.
While critics argued that such a broad rule would impair free speech while representing clients and impinge on the freedom to reject potential clients, no lawyers lined up to speak against the revised rule, which was passed recently by a voice vote at the A.B.A.’s annual meeting in San Francisco.
To address objections by litigators who argued that the change could hinder vigorous representation of clients, the drafters added qualifiers. The amended ethics rule now bans the offensive conduct only if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know it is harassment or discrimination, and does not apply to ‘legitimate’ legal advice or advocacy. That gives offenders some wiggle room to contend that they did not know their conduct or remarks were prohibited.
The guidance that comes with the rule, however, defines discrimination as ‘harmful verbal or physical conduct that manifests bias or prejudice toward others.’ ‘Harassment includes sexual harassment and derogatory or demeaning verbal or physical conduct,” the guideline says.
The guidance also spells out what constitutes sexual harassment and the settings that are included while practicing law. Those settings not only include the courtroom, but also ‘interacting with witnesses, co-workers, court personnel, lawyers and others’ and ‘managing a law practice or law firm’ or ‘participating in bar association, business or social activities in connection with the practice of law’.
Myles V. Lynk, a lawyer from Arizona who leads the association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility, which pushed for the change, said during the debate at the annual meeting that the American Bar Association needed ‘to catch up’ with the states, which had already adopted such a prohibition. ‘The states have not waited for the A.B.A. to act. They have been laboratories of change,’ Mr. Lynk said. ‘It is time for the A.B.A. to catch up.’”
There are still too many instances of unprofessional and tactless demeaning and harassing comments made by not only lawyers but individuals in the workplace, in general. The recent pronouncements at Fox News are just one, very blatant example….but it exists all over this country…especially in this political climate.
Recently, a family member of a national political candidate stated that (I’m paraphrasing here) a woman should look for another job if there is harassment in the workplace……hmmm…being a billionaire’s son/daughter may give them the opportunity to go from job to job….but, most people live paycheck to paycheck and leaving a place of employment is not an option….somehow, we have to stem this misogynistic behavior. Will it stop with the millennials…and, if it doesn’t stop, will it at the least lessen?
Misogynistic behavior is a lot like racism….a learned behavior that can be ‘unlearned’…If you would like to discuss efforts to learn how to reduce harassing or misogynistic behavior, in or out of the work place, please contact Rosanne Bennett at 484-718-3427 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.