How to stop harassment: Professional construction of legal compliance in organizations

Frank Dobbin, Erin L. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

150 Scopus citations


Most employers installed sexual harassment grievance procedures and sensitivity training by the late 1990s. It was personnel experts, not courts, legislatures, or lawyers, who promoted these antiharassment strategies, drawn from the profession's tool kit. Personnel succeeded because it was executives, not public officials, who denned professional jurisdiction, and executives proved susceptible to personnel's argument that bureaucratic routines could reduce legal risk. With each landmark in harassment law, more employers adopted the grievance procedures personnel advocated despite negative reviews from lawyers. Employers who consulted personnel experts were more likely to join the bandwagon; those who consulted lawyers were less likely. The case holds lessons for the evolution of professions, because executives play an increasing role in defining professional jurisdiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1243
Number of pages41
JournalAmerican Journal of Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 2007


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