Unique workplaces present unique challenges in harassment claims

When people think of workplace sexual harassment, they often imagine scenarios that are carried out in an office environment with people who are in clearly-defined roles with formal job descriptions and an HR department to file reports with. While harassment can and does occur in these environments, it can also happen in other types of workplaces as well.

For example, a recent harassment lawsuit was filed in New York against a yoga instructor and studio after one woman says she was the victim of harassment by her teacher and mentor. This case, which was more closely examined in this Slate article, highlights some of the unique complications that arise for people who work in unique environments.

Basically, the case involves a woman who served as an apprentice to a senior yoga teacher. During her time as an apprentice, the woman says her teacher crossed several personal boundaries, sleeping with her student, making unwelcome comments and touching her inappropriately.

However, the employment structure at the studio wasn’t so much a professional environment as it was a cult, according to the lawsuit. There were blurred lines between when a student could and could not say no, what an teacher should be allowed to do and what options people felt they had when they believed they were being mistreated.

Work environments like these can be quite attractive to people hoping to avoid seemingly cold or sterile office work, but they can also present some unique challenges.

Lax rules on interpersonal conduct can make it seem okay for people to say or do things that are unwelcome and inappropriate; placing value on submission or compliance without proper boundaries and protections can make people feel like they need to do or say things they are uncomfortable with; lack of proper resources for employees can leave them feeling helpless in the event of a rights violation.

Unfortunately, many people in these environments try to ignore the situation or assume there is nothing they can do to protect themselves from sexual harassment. However, if you have been harassed in any type of workplace, you need to know that you can discuss your situation with an attorney to learn more about your rights and the legal remedies available. Whether you work in an office or a yoga studio, sexual harassment is wrong and unlawful.

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