Fighting sexual harassment in male-dominated professions

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, behaviors and actions that are commonly classified as being sexually harassing in nature include lewd comments and jokes, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and sexual assault. Such acts may be committed against an employee by a fellow employee like a supervisor or co-worker or by a client or customer with whom an employee must interact as part of their assigned work duties.

Regardless of gender, sexual orientation and industry; any employee can be the victim of sexual harassment. For female employees, sexual harassment is particularly a problem in industries and professions that are predominately male-dominated. This theory is one that three New York City female police officers, who were plaintiffs in a case against a male police lieutenant, know all too well.

The three plaintiffs range in age from 36 to 44 and were all considered veteran police officers. In the lawsuit, the three women accused the 44-year-old male lieutenant of committing numerous sexually inappropriate and harassing acts including showing the women sexually-explicit videos, making unwanted sexual advances and sending crude text messages. Additionally, the women claimed they were retaliated against after rejecting the lieutenant’s advances.

Initially, the defendant denied any wrongdoing and was being backed and defended by the city’s defense attorneys. All of this changed, however, when the city’s attorneys removed themselves from the case last spring, claiming the defendant admitted to committing at least some of the offensive actions and acts described in the lawsuit.

While the defendant continues to deny that he did anything wrong, earlier this fall, the city chose to settle the case for $1.25 million. While the three plaintiffs are likely relieved that the legal ordeal is over, their claims along with the lieutenant’s refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing indicates that sexual harassment within the NYPD may be systemic.

Source: The New York Times, “New York City Settles Harassment Suit by 3 Female Police Officers,” Benjamin Weiser, Sept. 16, 2015

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