Fighting a culture of sexual harassment in male-dominated careers

Posted in Sexual Harassment on October 11, 2013

It used to be the case in America that certain jobs were “men’s work,” and others were only done by women. Although there has been significant gender integration in stereotypically male and female careers, a lot of old biases still persist. And in jobs that are still largely thought of as men’s work, women often have a very difficult time getting respect and being treated like an equal.

Law enforcement is one line of work that tends to promote a “boy’s club” atmosphere. As such, female police officers in California and around the country are likely to face sexual harassment and other behaviors that create a hostile work environment.

A good example of this problem is a lawsuit that was recently filed against the police department in Des Plaines, Illinois; which is a suburb of Chicago. In that lawsuit, a female police officer alleges that her colleagues and superiors “created and perpetuated a hostile work environment, turned a blind eye to the sexual harassment and plaintiff’s complaints, and condoned and committed retaliation against” her.

According to the lawsuit, a former sergeant inappropriately touched and groped the plaintiff on two occasions, including once in February of this year. In that incident, the woman needed help getting into the locker room because she had hurt her back while lifting her work bag out of the car. After helping her to the locker room, the sergeant allegedly grabbed the woman’s buttocks, breast and touched her genitals through her clothing.

The plaintiff says she was also exposed to inappropriate material, including pornography. Male coworkers reportedly sent naked pictures and pornographic emails while in her presence. The same sergeant who allegedly groped the woman also allegedly showed the plaintiff a picture of male genitals on his cellphone.

It is, quite simply, unacceptable that such behavior should be allowed to persist in any U.S. workplace, much less in a taxpayer-funded public service job where officers are expected to uphold a high standard of conduct.

We must hope that in time, enough lawsuits will be filed in male-dominated workplaces to finally bring an end to the boy’s club culture and truly allow women to be equals in the eyes of their colleagues.


Source: Chicago Tribune, “Des Plaines police officer sues department, alleges sexual harassment, bias,” Jonathan Bullington, Oct. 3, 2013