Fighting against sexual harassment in higher education

Posted in Sexual Harassment on June 18, 2015

Facing sexual harassment is never easy. But it is especially difficult at the beginning of one’s career. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most likely times for sexual harassment to occur.

Whether you are a graduate student, an intern or just hoping to rise out of your entry-level position, you realize that recommendations are incredibly important. A few words from your boss or your professor could make or break your career. Sadly, sexual harassers are often well aware of this power imbalance and use it to their own advantage.

A recently reported case seems to be a good example. Two female graduate students at UCLA have filed a lawsuit against the university for its alleged failure to investigate and resolve complaints of sexual harassment. The two women say they were both sexually harassed by the same history professor. Both were reluctant to complain because in addition to being a professor, the harasser also held unique positions of power over their immediate futures.

One woman says she was harassed by the professor between 2008 and 2013. Her hesitancy to complain stemmed from the fact that he was on the committee responsible for allocating departmental funding for graduate students. The second woman was reluctant to file a complaint because the professor was her dissertation advisor.

According to the lawsuit, both women eventually reported the harassment to the appropriate university officials, but their complaints were never adequately investigated. Instead, the plaintiffs say, they were urged not to pursue formal investigations.

UCLA is not the only university to face criticism for mishandling allegations of sexual misconduct. This is a major problem throughout California and across the nation. But what message does it send when this type of behavior is tolerated and even protected at one of America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning?

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment, it shouldn’t matter whether you are just starting your career or are well established in it. Sexual harassment is always wrong and should never be tolerated. If your company or school fails to take appropriate actions to end the harassment, please discuss your case with an experienced employment law attorney.