Why We Have Sexual Harassment Laws

Democratic Brooklyn assemblyman Vito Lopez was evidently fond of ordering his female employees to wear short skirts and high heels, giving them money to buy jewelry, and berating those who, according to the Times, "did not compliment him effusively enough."

The Assembly Speaker paid $100,000 in hush money to quash the ensuing sexual harassment claim. Didn't work:

The sexual harassment scandal that has been roiling New York's political world began last Friday, when the Assembly's ethics committee substantiated claims that Mr. Lopez harassed two women. The Assembly released a letter censuring Mr. Lopez, one of the city's last powerful political bosses, taking away his committee chairmanship and barred him from employing interns or anyone under the age of 21. The letter described "pervasive unwelcome verbal conduct" and found that Mr. Lopez verbally harassed, groped and kissed two of his staff members without their consent. 

Over the next few days, The New York Times reported that Sheldon Silver, the Assembly speaker and one of the state's most powerful Democrats, authorized a secret payment of $103,080 in June to settle prior allegations against Mr. Lopez from two other women -- allegations that were never referred to the ethics committee. The settlement has sparked numerous calls for investigation into the Assembly's handling of the matter. Mr. Silver has conceded he made a mistake.

You think? Sexual harassment laws were basically invented for people who think "I'd like it better if you didn't have a bra on" qualifies as management-speak.
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in National

From This Author

Just In