Sometimes people dream up solutions to serious problems that are so bizarre, they literally take your breath away. To wit, in England, a socialist Member of Parliament recently suggested that in order to solve the problems of sexual harassment and assault on public transportation, trains should have separate cars that are only for women.
The immediate reaction from the pundit class was, unsurprisingly, outrage, with critics calling the idea “old-fashioned sexism” and a form of “apartheid.” One activist compared it to the time when a local mass murderer had been killing women, and one politician suggested that all women should stay home to avoid danger.
Women shouldn’t have to restrict or change their movements when criminals violate laws. That clearly and obviously places the responsibility on the wrong party. The solution is to stop the illegal behavior – and/or to eliminate its root social, cultural and institutional causes — not to normalize it and compel would-be victims to change their behavior and restrict their movements. A saner strategy would involve enforcing laws against sexual assault and harassment and to deter men (and women) from violating them in the first place.
The same moral holds, of course, when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. Solutions should never restrict an employee’s freedom to choose where to work. Instead, laws prohibit what the harasser can do or say.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employees who are sexually harassed at work should –
• Tell the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop; and
• Report the harassment to management.
Per the EEOC website, “The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor’s harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.”
The Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP team can help you understand your rights and options in a potential sexual harassment case. Call us today at 1 (212) 688-5640, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, to schedule a free intake evaluation.