Sexual Harassment Workplace Investigations In The MeToo Era

Published date18 September 2021
Subject MatterEmployment and HR, Contract of Employment, Discrimination, Disability & Sexual Harassment
Law FirmCadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP
AuthorMs Ellen V. Holloman and Hyungjoo Han

This practice note provides an overview of the statutes and standards governing the various legal issues implicated by the MeToo (or #MeToo) movement and addresses best practices for conducting sexual harassment workplace investigations in the MeToo era.

Specifically this note covers the following issues regarding sexual harassment workplace investigations:

  • #MeToo Movement
  • Legal Landscape
  • Best Practices for Conducting a Sexual Harassment Investigation
  • Best Practices to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

For more guidance on conducting workplace investigations, see the Investigations task page.

For more information on workplace harassment, see the Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation task page. Also see Harassment Claim Prevention and Defense. For more information on state laws concerning workplace harassment, see Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation State Practice Notes Chart. For non-jurisdictional and state- specific forms on workplace harassment, see Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation State Expert Forms and Checklists Chart.

For information on key workplace harassment-related legal developments and other labor and employment legal developments in jurisdictions across the country, see Labor & Employment Key Legal Development Tracker.


In 2006, activist Tarana Burke began using the #MeToo hashtag to destigmatize survivors of sexual assault and raise awareness about the issue. Eleven years later, actress Alyssa Milano posted a viral tweet: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." Milano's tweet was shared over 200,000 times, sparking a global movement in the United States against sexual harassment and abuse. Along with Burke, Milano, and many others who spoke up about sexual abuse and harassment in the #MeToo movement in the United States, powerful parallel #MeToo movements also developed around the globe.

Coupled with the Black Lives Matter movement, which was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer, the #MeToo movement has had a profound impact on how society regards discrimination, harassment, and assault within and outside of the workplace.

Among the impacts of the #MeToo movement on different facets of life, employers have shifted to focusing on issues of workplace harassment by:

  • Increasingly investigating allegations of sexual harassment
  • Adding anti-harassment policies to employee codes of conduct
  • Establishing new...

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