The United States, among many other Western countries, has been a beacon for women's rights. Many women in the world cannot teach, work, show their ankles, vote, hold public office and sometimes are not allowed to think much less. Here in the United States, women have the opportunity to do all of those things and more. Major court decisions and changes in the laws have been responsible for the great advancement in two of the gender equality rights arenas: abortion and sexual discrimination in the workplace. Litigation and changes in legislation have made possible the recognition of women's reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination while at work. However, despite the improvements, women are still not free from obstacles posed by the law.
In order to understand how these revolutions came about, it is important to know about the second wave of feminism. The first wave of feminism began with the Seneca Falls Convention and ended when movement accomplished its goal to gain women's suffrage in 1920.
[...] Feminists began to realize the deplorable situation women in the workplace placed and began to work towards protection and gender equality. A woman has every right to be as successful at a job as a man, but also to be as safe and secure in their persons as men while employed. Catharine McKinnon was a second wave feminist who coined and defined the term sexual harassment as legally wrong and an action prosecutable in court. Augustus B. Cochran III, Sexual Harassment and the Law 49. [...]
[...] By allowing the decision of using birth control to remain between a husband and wife (and not up to the courts), Griswold opened the door for women to reclaim a portion of their reproductive rights. Roe v. Wade U.S (1973), was the landmark case decision that established the right to reproductive privacy as outlined in Griswold and in essence, legalized abortion. Feminist lawyers had taken the approach that the vagueness in the law make it harder for doctors to know whether they were violating the law. [...]
[...] The Vinson and Williams cases are two of the most important pieces of case law in sexual harassment because they decisions gave women an avenue to seek grievances for their abuse, and they did. The decision of these cases opened up the possibility for more women to come prosecute their sexual harassers. In the past, the employment at will doctrine reigned over women in the workplace: the boss has the ability to hire and fire at will. This creates a greater opportunity for the presence and promotion of sexual harassment because women would risk their employment if they chose to report any harassment. [...]
[...] Cochran III, Sexual Harassment and the Law 143. Unfortunately, many issues of sexual harassment law were not settled with these court cases or amendments. The burden of proving un-welcomeness, as outlined in the Vinson case belongs to the plaintiff. The issue with this is what constitutes un-welcomeness and who defines it. The courts did not pick one standard to measure un-welcomeness by, but it is often suggested that a “reasonable person” standard be used, as it is in many other cases. [...]
[...] Cochran III, Sexual Harassment and the Law 53. An example of such a situation would be if a male supervisor does not promote a female subordinate because she will not have sex with him. This then constitutes sexual discrimination because the sexual harassment acts as barrier to the female subordinate's ability to be promoted. This case was the first victory in the quest for promoting equality in the workplace. Women could now sue for sexual harassment without having to worry about its definition under the Act. [...]
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