Yang Tackles Sexual Harassment of Contract Workers

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By Jacquie Lee

Former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission member Jenny R. Yang began work Jan. 8 as a fellow with the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

Yang plans to focus on the precarious legal position of contract workers who are victims of sexual harassment or assault at work, she told Bloomberg Law Jan. 10.

Contract workers are especially vulnerable to such harassment, Yang said. They aren’t regarded as employees so often don’t get the sexual harassment prevention training other employees do. If another worker or a manager says or does something inappropriate, contractors might think the company’s protections don’t apply to them.

“They’re also less likely to report it because they’re worried about job security,” Yang said.

In the past decade, the proportion of independent contractors, freelancers, and temporary workers rose from about 10 percent to almost 16 percent, a 2016 study found. As contracted work continues to grow, so will incidents of sexual harassment for those workers, Yang said, unless employers “take proactive steps” to stop it.

As the Leadership in Government fellow, Yang will work with various nonprofits, such as the National Employment Law Project and the Aspen Institute, to strengthen enforcement of anti-harassment laws for contract workers. She also plans to start consulting and will focus on equal pay, workplace diversity, and automation.

Yang left the EEOC Jan. 3. Prior to her 2013 appointment by President Barack Obama, she was a partner at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee in Washington at jlee1@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bloomberglaw.com

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