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Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has been accused of sexual harassment and discrimination against male employees.
In the complaint, Napolitano is accused of turning her female-run department into a "frat house" where male staffers were routinely humiliated, reports Forbes.
Along with the culture against men, Napolitano is also accused of providing unequal opportunities for men and women, promoting women to the highest positions while equally qualified men were bypassed. The lawsuit against Janet Napolitano serves as a stark reminder for employers that discrimination goes both ways, and that you have to be on the lookout for much more than men harassing women.
The complaint against Napolitano is instructive to employers as it not only involves a role reversal of men suing women, but also includes both complaints of verbal sexual harassment and discriminatory treatment.
Verbal sexual harassment is the much more recognizable violation. An employer can usually spot verbal harassment as as soon as they hear it. In Napolitano's case, a female manager in the Department allegedly screamed at male employees and used sexually humiliating language against them; including, telling one male worker that she wanted his "c-k in the back of [her] throat," reports Forbes. If true, it's pretty clear such language could constitute illegal harassment.
On the other hand, discriminatory treatment can be much harder to recognize. For example, the lawsuit alleges that male staffers were frequently bypassed for top positions. To prove discrimination, a judge would have to look at the intent of the employer -- if in fact the employer actually considered sex, and decided to promote based on this characteristic. This is usually much more difficult to prove than simply reviewing foul language.
For her part, Janet Napolitano has denied the harassment complaint. In the meantime, employers should take this case as a reminder to be sensitive to discrimination and harassment by men against women, and women against men.