WASHINGTON, August 5, 2013 — Sexual harassment is not a new crime. Mayor Filner is not the first elected official to be charged with this crime, nor will he be the last.
A former aide to Filner alleges he subjected her and other women to “crude and disgusting” comments, “creepy” sexual advances and unwanted touching. As a result of Irene Jackson’s suit against him, two other women went public with accusations that the Mayor touched their buttocks and tied to kiss them.
Appropriately, over the last few decades sexual harassment has come to include numerous types and nuances of behavior. Broadly, sexual harassment is any form of unwelcome sexual conduct that creates a hostile work environment. A single offensive incident can be considered harassment. More often, harassment allegations detail that the offensive conduct was severe or pervasive.
A series of continuing minor incidents can be harassment.
Even non-sexual conduct can be harassment if directed at a person because of his or her gender.
Sexual harassment claims are identified in two types. The first is called “quid pro quo,” meaning “this for that,” and can include instances when a boss, supervisor or someone in an authority position with more power than the victim asks for sexual favors in return for promotions or raises.
The second type of harassment claim is referred to as “hostile environment.” The unwelcome conduct may be from supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors, or anyone else on the job. The claim in this type of harassment ultimately will rely upon proving that the employer knew of the conduct and did nothing to stop it.
Examples of a hostile environment include discussing sexual activities; telling off-color jokes; touching; commenting on physical attributes; displaying sexually suggestive pictures; and granting work favors to those who participate in consensual sexual activity.
Here are a few of our nation’s more publicized instances of sexual harassment and the results.
Jenson v. Eveleth Taconite Company
In 1984, the first class action lawsuit in the United States was filed. Lois Jensen was the lead plaintiff suing her iron mine company employer in Minnesota. Beginning in 1975, Jensen and her female co-workers suffered all measure of verbal and physical harassment from male co-workers who believed that women should stay at home.
It took years to find an attorney to move the case to move forward. In 1998, the case settled with the company for $3.5 million.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill
Seemingly the entire country watched the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings in 1991 for Clarence Thomas. The star of the show was law professor Anita Hill who testified that she suffered sexual harassment by the soon-to-be-named Associate Justice. \
Ms. Hill is credited with putting workplace sexual harassment out in the open. She made this problem part of our national public conversation, and she gave many women the courage to tell their own stories.
President Bill Clinton/Paula Jones
President Clinton never admitted he sexually harassed Paula Jones, a state employee, when he was Governor of Arkansas. She claimed he exposed himself and asked her for oral sex in a hotel room.
Her lawsuit n 1994 was dismissed, but later, during the appeals process, a settlement was reached. Clinton paid her $850,000.00.
Additional consequences befell Clinton. For “intentionally false” testimony during the trial he was fined $90,000.00, and the Arkansas Supreme Court suspended his Arkansas law license.
In 2001 he surrendered his U.S. Supreme Court law license to avoid disbarment.
California Legal Secretary
A San Francisco jury awarded Rena Weeks $7.1 million against her boss, a trademark attorney, Martin Greenstein, after he lunged at her chest, poured M&M’s down her breast pocket and grabbed at her hips. The verdict was in 1994.
Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing
In 1998, Mitsubishi agreed to pay $34 million to female workers at their Illinois plant. Allegations of a hostile setting since at least 1990 also resulted in several more millions being paid out in individual suits.
Women were routinely fondled, verbally abused, and subjected to obscene jokes, behavior, and graffiti. One woman had an air gun placed and then fired between her legs. Many women quit because of the abusive environment.
Mitsubishi cleaned up its act. The company hired Lynn Martin, former Secretary of Labor. She overhauled their anti-sexual harassment and complaint system, and the company has since had a zero tolerance policy.
University of Colorado Football Program
Two women, students, raped at an off-campus party by a group of football players in 2001 collected $2.85 million from the University to settle their claims. As part of the settlement agreement, the University appointed an official to advise the Chancellor on sexual harassment prevention, and a part-time counselor was hired for the school’s Office of Victim’s Assistance.
Anucha Sanders/Isiah Thomas, NY Knicks Coach
In 2007, a jury awarded Anucha Sanders $11.6 million finding Knicks coach Isiah Thomas harassed her over a period of two years. She was fired for reporting him. Madison Square Garden, the owner of the team, was hit for most of the verdict for allowing a hostile work environment.
In 2011, a jury awarded Ms. Ingraham $10.6 million, finding her supervisor made repeated comments about her breast size, talked about how big his penis was, and for constantly asking her about her sexual fantasies.
UBS fired her when she complained about the supervisor.
What to Do If You’re Harassed
While behavior may not change, if you are going to be in a position to make a successful claim, first understand that for your employer to be responsible, he or she must know about it. Then:
- Tell the offender and your supervisor firmly and clearly that the behavior is offensive and that you want it to stop.
- Keep a detailed log and your efforts to stop it, noting the date and a description of each incident.
Paul A. Samakow writes for Communties and h is the featured legal analyst on the Washington Times Radio, in Washington, D.C., on the Andy Parks show America’s Radio News Network, heard in 165 markets nationwideappears on the attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, since 1980.
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