Amid renewed national attention on workplace sexual misconduct and bullying, the American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession has released a manual to help legal employers and victims fight sexual harassment.

The manual, "Zero Tolerance: Best Practices for Combating Sex-Based Harassment in the Legal Profession," contains practical advice for legal employers and employees, including sample policies for prohibiting harassment and for progressive discipline.

"Not so long ago, many people in the legal profession asked whether sexual harassment was really a problem," ABA President Hilarie Bass said. "Today, everyone understands that sexual harassment is a problem in every workplace, often one that employers are either not aware of or have not addressed appropriately. Our goal today is to make sure that our workplaces are environments free of harassing behavior and that, to the extent that such behavior does take place, it will be expeditiously and appropriately addressed without retaliation to the victim. This manual will help make that aspiration a reality."

The manual includes up-to-date summaries of case law and best practices on developing and enforcing anti-harassment policies. It addresses new subject areas such as LGBTQ rights and gender-based bullying, and draws on the personal experiences of professionals who deal with sexual harassment issues every day, including lawyers, judges, educators, investigators, mediators and legislators. The goal of the publication, which has been thoroughly updated and revised since its first publication in 2002, is to provide practical guidance for addressing and eliminating sexual harassment in the legal workplace by 2020.

"Best practices to prevent sexual harassment and to punish harassers have come a long way in the last few years," said Commission Chair Stephanie Scharf, a partner with Scharf Banks Marmor in Chicago. "Our goal in updating 'Zero Tolerance' is to communicate those practices in ways that are easy for all law firms and legal employers to understand and implement."

The preface to the manual is written by Brandeis University Professor Anita Hill, who made news in 1991 when she accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. "Since October, newspapers and magazines have carried stories that underscored the rampant nature of sex-based harassment and its emotional, physical and economic injuries in a range of industries. But few anticipated the velocity of the outpouring of stories from around the globe that flooded social media," Hill wrote.

"The latest wave of disclosures shows that sex-based harassment is vastly underreported, whether due to clear complaint mechanisms or victims' fear of retaliation. The fear of professional reprisal is evident in cases involving lawyers who allege harassment. To its credit, the ABA's Commission on Women in the Profession has undertaken a close and careful look at the magnitude of sex-based harassment and bullying in our profession."

Chapters in "Zero Tolerance" deal with:

- The problems of sex-based harassment and the need for zero tolerance.

- The legal framework for sex-based harassment and bullying.

- Recent manifestations of sex-based harassment.

- Training and prevention.

- Developing and enforcing anti-harassment policies.

- Selected resources on sex-based harassment.

Contributors include executive editor Wendi S. Lazar, editors Terese M. Connolly and Gregory S. Chiarello, and members of the ABA Section of Labor & Employment Law. Uniquely, the book incorporates the perspectives of lawyers who represent both plaintiffs and management.

"Zero Tolerance" is available at the ABA Store at

Since 1992, the Commission on Women in the Profession has been at the forefront of the legal profession in combating sexual harassment and bullying. It is dedicated to securing the full and equal participation of women in the ABA, the legal profession and the justice system.

Published: Thu, Apr 12, 2018