University of California System to Review Sexual Harassment Policies after Scandal

Photo of employee handbookFollowing the scandal at UC Berkeley involving a world famous astronomer, the University of California system is considering new policies to prevent future cases of sexual harassment involving faculty.

From 2001 to 2010, the tenured UC Berkeley professor allegedly gave graduate students massages, kisses, and gropes against their consent. After the allegations came to light, the UC system was paralyzed on how to handle the situation. The professor was not only tenured, but perhaps the most brilliant mind in astronomy.

At first, UC Berkeley gave the professor “clear expectations” for future interactions with students, warning he could be suspended or fired for future violations of university conduct. However, that was not necessary, and the astronomy professor resigned from his position. After the resignation, a debate raged online and in classrooms over how sexual harassment should be handled when the case involves tenured professors.

Is the University of California System Allowing Sexual Harassment of Graduate Students?

In the aftermath of this scandal, University of California President Janet Napolitano vowed to review current sexual harassment policies. There have been concerns that the UC system is “too lenient” on tenured professors, which resulted in the recent paralysis after the allegations at UC Berkeley became known. Furthermore, the field of astronomy, even outside of academia, has come under media scrutiny for lacking gender parity and allowing this type of behavior.

For future updates on how to fight back against sexual harassment in the workplace, continue following our employment law blog.

Kesluk, Silverstein & JacobLos Angeles Employment Attorneys