#MeToo, Time’s Up, and Theories of Justice

Allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the ensuing #MeToo movement opened the floodgates to a modern-day reckoning with sex discrimination in the workplace. High-level and high-profile individuals across industries have been fired, been suspended, or resigned, while others accused of wrongdoing have faced no consequences, gotten slaps on the wrists, or ascended to the highest levels of power. At the same time, serious concerns have been raised about useful processes by which nonprivileged women and men can address harassment, due process for those accused of misconduct, and the need for proportionate consequences. And there have been calls for both restorative and transformative justice in addressing this problem. But these calls have not been explicit about what sort of restoration or transformation is envisioned.

This Article explores the meaning, utility, and complexities of restorative justice and the insights of transitional justice for dealing with sexual misconduct in the workplace. We begin by documenting the restorative origins of #MeToo as well as exploring steps taken, most prominently by Time’s Up, to amplify and credit survivors’ voices, seek accountability, change workplace practices, and encourage access to the legal system. We then take up the call for restorative justice by exploring its key components—including acknowledgement, responsibility-taking, harm repair, nonrepetition, and reintegration—with an eye toward how these components might apply in the context of addressing sexual assault and harassment in the workplace and in the world at large.

We then turn to the insights of transitional justice. We identify several characteristics of transitional societies that are shared with the #MeToo setting, including widespread patterns of misconduct, structural inequalities, a history of denial, the normalization of wrongful behavior, and uncertainty about the way forward. We use these insights to provide guidance for ongoing reform efforts. First, we highlight the importance of including both forward-looking and backward-looking approaches to addressing wrongful behavior. Second, we emphasize the vital importance of including and addressing the interests of marginalized groups within the larger movement. Inclusion facilitates knowing about and acknowledging specific intersectional harms, and also models the kinds of equal relationships that individuals in marginalized groups seek. Third, we emphasize the need for holism in responses that attempt to spur societal change. #MeToo reformers must diversify their strategies and not over-rely on the promise of any particular form of justice.

The full text of this Article is available to download as a PDF.