San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is being sued for sexual harassment by a former aide. The lawsuit has inspired two more women to step forward with their own accusations.
Filner believes he will eventually be vindicated, but he also acknowledged, "I need help," and added, "I'm clearly doing something wrong," CNN reports.
From verbal comments to unwanted physical contact and derogatory gestures, sexual harassment is alive and well. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Allegations Against the Mayor
Filner's former spokeswoman, Irene McCormack Jackson, sued him for sexual harassment Monday. Jackson asserts that Filner subjected her and other women to "crude and disgusting" comments, inappropriate touching and creepy sexual advances.
After Jackson filed suit, two more women went public with allegations against the mayor. Political consultant Laura Fink accused Filner of patting her on the buttocks at a fund-raising dinner in 2005, when she the deputy manager of Filner's congressional campaign.
Morgan Rose, a nonprofit group founder and school psychologist, is the latest alleged victim to come forward. She claims Filner tried to kiss her at least four times during a business meeting at a restaurant when he was a congressman, CNN reports.
What Exactly Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can be any form of unwelcome sexual conduct that creates a hostile work environment. It can also occur when a person in an authority position asks for sexual acts in return for favors like promotions or raises (known as "quid pro quo").
To count as a hostile work environment, the offensive conduct must be either severe or pervasive. That could entail a single extremely offensive incident, or even an ongoing pattern of relatively minor incidents that "add up" to harassment.
Note that nonsexual conduct can also count as sexual harassment if it's directed at a person because of his or her gender.
What to Do If You're Harassed
Remember, for your employer to be legally responsible for stopping the harassment, he or she must know about it and know that it's unwelcome.
Here are a few steps you may want to consider:
- State firmly and clearly that the behavior is offensive and that you want it stop.
- Keep a detailed log of the harassment and your efforts to stop it, noting the date and a brief description of each incident.
- Notify your supervisor.
- If the behavior continues, consult with an experienced employment law attorney to learn more about your rights and legal options.
Another reason you may want to consult an attorney: Sexual harassment lawsuits generally must be filed within a certain time frame after the alleged incident. In California, for example, it's one year (though there are some exceptions); harassment complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must also be filed within 180 or 300 days, depending on the circumstances.