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Pat K. Chew, Hiding Sexual Harassment: Myths and Realities, 21 Nev. L.J. 1223 (2021).

Pat K. Chew’s Hiding Sexual Harassment: Myths and Realities exhorts the reader to view sex discrimination’s and sexual harassment’s invisibility as being among their most nefarious attributes. This piece is convincing and thought-provoking. As the #MeToo movement hits a crossroads, this article deserves to be centered in the literature, and in any discussion of workplace sex discrimination and sexual harassment.

The article is organized as a series of myths: “Sex discrimination is no longer prevalent,” “Sexual harassment is no longer prevalent,” and “Sexual harassers are stopped and punished,” and upon reflection, it does appear that these are still widely-held societal beliefs. By probing into why these beliefs persist despite so much evidence to the contrary and into how they operate to obscure and amplify the harm caused by sex discrimination and sexual harassment, this piece yields a novel angle from which to confront these problems.

Of particular note is the author’s stating outright as her premise something that very much bears iteration: despite the much-lauded #MeToo movement and the heralded progress it has made in the headlines, this is just the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” when it comes to truly ending this scourge on the American workplace. From there, Professor Chew’s handling of the three myths is rich in both its approach and its conclusions, one of the most powerful being that “harassed employees are disadvantaged at every stage of the reporting and resolution process, often leading to their frustration and failure.”

Myth number one, that sex discrimination is no longer prevalent, is, as the author notes, a widely-shared belief, but completely untrue. Professor Chew demonstrates this after concretizing notions of “discrimination,” as specifically: 1) pay disparities between the sexes; 2) the underrepresentation of women in whole career categories and spaces; and 3) microaggressions that women must disproportionately endure in the workplace. I really enjoyed Professor Chew’s discussion of the narrative that has emerged that the American workplace is somehow “post sex-discrimination,” and her probing and interrogation of that narrative.

According to Professor Chew, the commonly upheld narratives that 1) “there are natural and appropriate roles for women and men that justify discrimination in the workplace;” and that 2) “that it is just a matter of time for women to achieve parity and that it is largely up to women to do so,” serve to engender a complacency and even a denial of reality that harms women as a group. This articulation really hits the nail on the head, especially the first one, which invokes the idea of the “ideal worker,” whose attributes are at odds with those of the societally-held conception of the “ideal woman.” These narratives deserve aeration and probing.

The second myth, that sexual harassment is no longer prevalent, receives similarly thorough and eye-opening treatment. As with the first myth Professor Chew assembles the latest and greatest literature on the subject, adding her own illustrations and insights to illuminate and spark thought. The role of sex segregation in the workplace and the role of power disparities in engendering harassment are set forth and richly illustrated with caselaw. Professor Chew also establishes the interrelatedness of sexual harassment and sex discrimination in a way that is pointed and powerful.

The third and final myth explored in this piece, that “sexual harassers are stopped and punished,” is just as crucial to interrogate as the first two myths. After establishing that harassers are too often given license to become recidivists, Professor Chew breaks down the root causes of this phenomenon: victims failing to report harassment, the obstacles and impediments erected in victims’ paths by the litigation process (everything from stacked legal standards to the potential for retaliation from all angles), and arbitration’s disadvantaging victims in various ways. Illustrations animate and inform Professor Chew’s points in this well written, well-researched piece that ought to spark much conversation and thought.

In sum, it is crucial that we interrogate and eviscerate the rationalizations that drive complacency when it comes to sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the workplace. This piece identifies powerful forces that engender and perpetuate both workplace sexual harassment and sex discrimination. It also critiques the view that we, as a society, have somehow moved past these problems and that those responsible for them have been stopped.

Moreover, it furnishes proposals at its conclusion that are as worthy of consideration as they are ambitious. Centered around closing the loops of the aforementioned disparities in the workplace and reconciling society with the falsities embedded in so many of its popularly-held narratives, these proposals are concrete and detailed. This piece is a much-needed wakeup call, replete with the research, insights, and conclusions that everyone who cares about workplace equality ought to be focused on right now.

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Cite as: Kerri Lynn Stone, Behind the Myths: Paving the Way for Real Redress of Sexual Harassment and Sex Discrimination in the Workplace, JOTWELL (June 15, 2022) (reviewing Pat K. Chew, Hiding Sexual Harassment: Myths and Realities, 21 Nev. L.J. 1223 (2021)), https://worklaw.jotwell.com/behind-the-myths-paving-the-way-for-real-redress-of-sexual-harassment-and-sex-discrimination-in-the-workplace/.