“Locker-room talk” is evidence of sexual harassment not a defence

Georgina Calvert-Lee, Senior Counsel

It was good to hear Gloria Allred on the Today programme (yesterday), speaking out on behalf of some of the women who have come forward to denounce Donald Trump for alleged sexual assault and harassment.

Gloria Allred has made a name for herself as a leading civil rights lawyer in the US, carving out a niche as the go-to attorney for claims against celebrities.  In the UK, where we are still reeling from the collective epiphany brought about by the allegations against Jimmy Savile and convictions of other household names for sexual offences, it is refreshing to reflect on Allred's success in exposing abuses of power on the other side of the pond.  Part of her success has been her unabashed use of the media as a weapon for achieving her or her client's goals.  In the UK, we tend to be shy of going to press.  We view it with scepticism; we think of ulterior motives.  But perhaps we should think again.  Sexual offences are often perpetrated because they are conducted in the dark against people without a voice.  It is incumbent upon those who have a voice to use it for their protection, and to amplify it, if necessary, through the media.

If we talk long and loud enough about the meaning of sexual harassment and sexual assault, consent and coercion, perhaps politicians and celebrities will think twice about describing the celebration of sexual assault as mere "locker-room talk" or "school-boy banter".

Meanwhile, people in the UK and the US should know that we have robust laws to protect them and their children from harassment and assault, from the bully and the bigot, and even from the online troll or covert poster of intimate images. The laws are there, they just need victims to call on them.  But for that the victim needs a voice.  The lawyers at McAllister Olivarius have been providing that voice for many years, in the UK and the US, and have achieved notable successes against big-name employers and powerful institutions who continually trot out the defence of "locker-room talk".  We have achieved high awards (in the US and the UK) for clients and whistleblowers subjected to discrimination, bullying, harassment, victimisation (retaliation) and more.  We have taken universities, law firms, banks, IT firms, heavy industry, local authorities, religious groups (of many denominations), large charities, accounting firms and others to task for not understanding the equality laws or not implementing protections for workers, students, faculty or congregants.  Anyone can become a "victim" and in that moment of crisis lose her or his own voice, but most can get it back again once they have asserted their rights and called out the wrong-doer.  McAllister Olivarius steps into the space between you losing your voice and re-finding it, and asserts your rights on your behalf.

Gloria Allred described her firm as the "leading women's rights law firm in the US" and in this, the 40th anniversary since her firm's founding, we salute her for all she has done to promote womens' rights.  But there are other law firms who are also making significant inroads into cultural prejudices and helping to re-define the everyday norms in women and men's lives.  McAllister Olivarius is doing this now in the UK and the US, and is poised to do so well into the future.