My sexual harassment prevention training sessions always include a discussion of the common misconceptions about it. The news about pop star Lizzo brought some of these issues top-of-mind . A few issues to keep in mind; yes, they may seem obvious, but claims still happen (and much more often than one would think).
False Beliefs (or Common Misconceptions) about Harassment:
- It must happen at work.
- The harasser must be in your chain of command or your department.
- You can’t be harassed:
- By someone who supports you at work or has promoted or advocated for you
- By someone you like
- By a celebrity
- By someone who is an LBGTQIA+ ally
- By someone who is gay if you are straight, or someone straight if you are gay
- If you flirt or drink too much
- If you go to someone’s hotel room or let them give you a ride home
- If your work environment is creative or expressive
Some Nevers for the Workplace (Learned from Some High Profile Cases):
- Go to a strip club with any subordinates
- Suggest strip poker as a group activity (even in jest)
- Encourage anyone to participate in any sexual charged activities
- Joke about former President Clinton’s cigar
- Smell a colleague’s hair
- Assume that someone young enough to be your child (or grandchild) wants anything other than a completely platonic relationship with you
- Assume that subordinates enjoy your flirting or touching
Remember, sexual harassment is about power, and using that power in a way that makes others uncomfortable. If you don’t want to trigger a claim, then don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done to your child or parent. It is as simple as that.