The very real problem of same-sex harassment in the workplace

Posted in Sexual Harassment on October 30, 2014

We have previously written that sexual harassment does not have to be about lust, gender or sexual orientation. While the most common scenario may be men harassing women, it is more common than most people realize for women to harass men or for either gender to harass victims of the same gender.

Sexual harassment is about exerting power over another person, usually through degrading comments, unwanted touching and other violations of personal rights and boundaries. In one recent case from California, the plaintiff claims that a male supervisor went to great lengths to harass him using homophobic slurs and other behaviors related to homosexuality.

It is not clear if either the supervisor or plaintiff is gay. But for the purposes of what constitutes harassment, it ultimately does not matter. The plaintiff claims that his supervisor engaged in unwanted touching and language suggesting that he wanted to have a sexual relationship (whether real or joking). The supervisor sometimes hugged the plaintiff from behind. Other times, he allegedly sent sexually suggestive text messages.

The most overt act of harassment came after the plaintiff told his harasser to stop. According to the lawsuit, the supervisor and others wrapped the plaintiff’s van in plastic wrap and taped pictures on it that showed gay pornography.

Sadly, the plaintiff reported this harassment to a manager only to have the manager refuse to investigate or take disciplinary action. Instead, the plaintiff claims, he was fired a short time later.

Some people, including the supervisor and manager, might try to dismiss this behavior as joking or good-natured hazing. It is neither of these. These actions and comments, in addition to being hurtful to the plaintiff, are highly offensive to anyone who values equal rights and basic dignity for members of the LGBT community.

If you have been sexually harassed, do not be hesitant to report it simply because of your harasser’s gender or perceived sexual orientation. The fact that you are being harassed should be the only relevant concern.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Here’s One You Don’t See Every Day …,” Rebekah Kearn, Oct. 28, 2014