After ‘DeJohn,’ Time to Revisit Sexual Harassment Policies Nationwide

By on September 23, 2008

George Washington University (GW) law professor John Banzhaf points out that GW’s sexual harassment policy is:

very similar to one just found unconstitutional in a very recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. The court struck down a very similar policy at Temple University even before it was applied in a specific situation. This follows several similar court decisions which suggest that rules limiting sexually harassing speech in workplaces cannot be applied to student speech in public universities.

Although GW is a private university, Banzhaf makes very good points about university sexual harassment policies in the wake of the DeJohn decision in the Temple case. Not only does workplace harassment law not apply to student speech, and not only did the court permit “a court challenge by a single student who merely claimed that the policy’s very existence chilled his freedom of speech and expression,” but also the ruling suggests that “students who are actually threatened by sexual harassment charges might be awarded substantial damages and brought before hearing bodies and that all those who participate could be potential defendants.”

Banzhaf notes that in light of such points, “[p]erhaps it’s time for the Faculty Senate to reconsider GW’s sexual harassment policy.” Indeed, it is time for all colleges and universities to revisit their harassment policies in light of DeJohn‘s precedential decision.

Schools: George Washington University Temple University Cases: Temple University: Speech Code Litigation