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.