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Employers have a duty to protect against sexual harassment

Employers are required to follow sexual harassment laws. Part of enforcing this law is ensuring that there are policies and procedures in place to address and abate this problem as it arises. In addition, employers need to help foster an environment in which sexual harassment simply isn't tolerated.

In a workplace setting, it's worth noting that sexual harassment isn't something that occurs only between employees. Furthermore, sexual harassment in schools isn't an act only committed by students against other students or even by employers against employees. At times, students may be the ones committing acts of harassment against their teachers.

Not long ago, a female teacher at an all-boys high school filed suit against her employer for consistent failures to respond to acts of sexual harassment directed at her by students. On several occasions, students made lurid comments about the teacher and even attempted to capture explicit pictures of her. Even though the teacher reported these incidents, administrators did little to respond. Unfortunately, the woman wasn't the only teacher with this kind of experience.

The basis of the teacher's legal claim is that her employer failed to protect her against sexual harassment -- despite the fact that it was a documented problem. It's unacceptable that these students were allowed to engage in this type of conduct without facing any consequences.

This California story has gained some media attention and serves as an important reminder that sexual harassment is a problem no matter who is committing it. An employer's duty to employees may not be limited to situations involving only those who are on the payroll.

Source: San Jose Mercury News, "Serra High lawsuit: Catholic school boys competed for up-skirt photos of female teachers," Matthias Gaffni, May 15, 2014

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