On March 21st, the documentary Anita: Speaking Truth to Power came to theaters in New York, 23 years after the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas scandal first brought sexual harassment into the mainstream discussion. In 1991, Ms. Hill accused Supreme Court Justice Nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment while as her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the EEOC.
Ms. Hill was a young attorney when she claimed Judge Thomas repeatedly requested dates from her. When she rebuffed his advances, he used work situations to discuss sexual subjects, including his own male anatomy and describing pornographic scenes. Hill also recounted an instance in which Thomas examined a can of Coke on his desk and asked, “Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?” Thomas denied all accusations.
At the time, sexual harassment was relatively new concept. Opponents painted Ms. Hill as a scorned woman seeking revenge, or simply downright delusional. Ms. Hill passed a polygraph test, but four female witnesses who supported Ms. Hill’s credibility were never called to testify. Despite Hill’s accusations, Judge Thomas was ultimately confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 52-48. He continues to serve to the present day.
In spite of Judge Thomas’ seeming victory, the scandal brought the topic of sexual harassment into the public sphere. For better or worse, Anita Hill forced America to start thinking about workplace harassment. One year after the controversy hit, harassment complaints filed with the EEOC were up 50 percent and public opinion had shifted in Hill’s favor. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll from 1992, 44% of registered voters said Hill was telling the truth, up from 24% in 1991.
Ms. Hill continues to make a career out of bringing awareness to gender and racial issues and advocating for victims’ rights. “As long as I believe that we can make things better and that this movie can help, I’m not going to stop,” Anita Hill said. She currently works as a professor at Brandeis University.
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, do not be afraid to speak up. A New York City attorney can help you fight back.
The Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC handles a multitude of cases that involve sexual harassment in New York City. For further information, please feel free to call us at 800-807-2209 for a free consultation or email at [email protected].
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