Legal Updates – October 2023

News

By:  Claire Sweetman

The Reform of Anti-Harassment Laws in 2023

Since the eruption of the #MeToo movement in 2017, many state legislatures have focused on reforming workplace anti-harassment laws. According to the National Women’s Law Center,[1] twenty-four states plus the District of Colombia have passed a total of over eighty workplace antiharassment bills since 2017.[2] In just 2023 alone, nine states passed meaningful protections against workplace harassment, including Colorado.[3] For example, this year, both Colorado and Vermont made changes to the “severe or pervasive” standard established by federal courts for determining whether conduct constitutes unlawful harassment.[4] With the passage of Colorado and Vermont’s laws, five states and D.C. have updated their definition of workplace harassment since 2017.[5]

Additionally, three states (Colorado, Rhode Island, and Virginia) passed laws in 2023 that limited the use of NDA’s that limit or prevent entirely an employee’s ability to disclose certain types of information regarding workplace conditions.[6] Eighteen total states have passed such reforms since 2017.[7] The legislatures in Colorado and Rhode Island both passed legislation that limits NDAs’ ability to silence workers from speaking up about any type of civil rights violations (Rhode Island) or any discriminatory or unfair employment practices (Colorado), not just sexual harassment.[8]

Employers should continually and carefully monitor any changes to their state’s anti-harassment laws.

FIFA Investigates Alleged Misconduct Related to Zambia Women’s National Team

In July 2023, The Guardian reported that soccer players of the Zambia Women’s National Team had raised sexual misconduct concerns regarding head coach Bruce Mwape.[9] An anonymous player reported: “If [Mwape] wants to sleep with someone, you have to say yes.”[10] The player also said: “It’s normal that the coach sleeps with the players in our team.”[11] Another source who is close with the players reported that the women are “threatened with punitive action” if they speak out about their concerns regarding Mwape’s behavior.[12] At a press conference prior to Zambia’s match against Spain in the Women’s World Cup this summer, Mwape told Spanish reporters that he would not consider resigning based on “rumors.”[13]

Mwape was appointed as head coach of the team in May 2018 and helped Zambia qualify for the World Cup for the first time in the club’s history. The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) said in September 2022 that it had tapped FIFA, soccer’s governing body, to launch an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse in the women’s game.[14] Mwape and the under-17 coach Kaluba Kangwa are understood to have been among the FAZ employees who were investigated. FAZ’s president, Andrew Kamanga, said that similarly to the previous investigation, the concerns were being investigated by the police and FIFA to ensure neutrality and impartiality.[15]

[1] https://nwlc.org/ 

[2] https://nwlc.org/resource/2023-metoo-workplace-anti-harassment-reforms/

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/football/2023/jul/08/zambia-womens-football-team-sexual-misconduct-bruce-mwape

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] https://apnews.com/article/zambia-soccer-womens-world-cup-misconduct-3f582f7c7e4e075d63d9e92ace0f888d

[14] https://www.theguardian.com/football/2023/jul/08/zambia-womens-football-team-sexual-misconduct-bruce-mwape

[15] Id.