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Harassment lawsuits lead to more protections for American Apparel workers

Taking legal action to stop sexual harassment in the workplace can right a wrong for the individual who suffered the harassment. In many cases, holding a harasser legally accountable also paves the way for wider protections being implemented in the workplace. In other words, often the individual who brings a legal claim to stop sexual harassment helps to ensure that others don't suffer the same mistreatment.

For example, consider the fact that American Apparel, the clothing company whose founder Dov Charney has been sued for sexual harassment numerous times over the years, has implemented a new workplace policy that goes further than its predecessor in protecting employees from sexual advances from supervisors and colleagues.

The detailed ethics code states the following: "No management-level employee may make sexual advances, welcome or unwelcome, toward any subordinate, regardless of whether the subordinate reports to the management employee, either directly or indirectly."

The policy goes on to prohibit discriminatory remarks that "create an offensive or hostile work environment or otherwise constitute abusive conduct." Additionally, managers are no longer permitted to date lower-level employees.

The changes come after founder Dov Charney was fired from his position as CEO in December.

The two types of sexual harassment that can result in a legal claim are harassment that results in a hostile work environment and harassment that is characterized as quid pro quo. Quid pro quo harassment happens when an employer or co-worker demands sexual favors in exchange for a job or better treatment in the workplace. Quid pro quo harassment also happens when an employee is fired or demoted for rejecting a manager's unwelcome sexual advances.

The American Apparel policy prohibiting romantic relationships between managers and employees is meant to protect workers from quid pro quo harassment.

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