The Ohio Supreme Court and Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) hosted a first-of-its kind joint sexual harassment training seminar aimed to stop workplace mistreatment, specifically among judges and lawyers.
“The legal profession and judiciary are not immune from this problem,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor during her opening remarks.
The event, held at the OSBA in Columbus, had 535 attendees from throughout Ohio and was streamed to 20 other locations across the state. It was initiated as part of a program to “raise the bar” with the purpose of changing the conversation about sexual harassment, protecting victims from being silenced or penalized, and ensuring inappropriate conduct will be reported and properly addressed.
"Thinking back on it, I've probably witnessed in courtrooms and in lawyers’ offices behavior that in retrospect that I wish I would've spoken up and said 'That's not okay,’” said seminar attendee and Court Master Commissioner Kris Armstrong.
As part of the conversation, which was moderated by Justice Mary DeGenaro, multiple vignettes were shown to depict not only blatant sexual harassment but also more subtle cases of discrimination and bias.
“One of the things that was most powerful was hearing from some of the women in the audience and about the experiences they had. It was impactful and really brave for sharing,” Armstrong said.
According to a study
by the Defense Research Institute, harassment and discrimination are much more common in the legal realm than many would realize. The study claims approximately 70 percent of women attorneys have experienced gender bias in the courtroom.
"We need to really stop asking the question of how do we not end up in a lawsuit, but how do we really have cultures where not just someone becomes a victim, or someone victimizes, but all of us have a role as bystanders,” said Christy Tull, director of the Supreme Court’s Judicial College.
According to Chief Justice O’Connor, the seminar was “only the start of an ongoing conversation.”