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U.S. military’s assault problem and workplace sexual harassment

Both Minnesota state law and federal law prohibit co-workers from harassing each other. As a result, many, if not most employers have policies in place that are supposed to prevent sexual harassment and provide ways of reporting it and fixing the problem if and when it does occur.

Unfortunately, many employers are not very good about following their own policies. In many cases over the years, employers have followed official procedures to report sexual harassment at work, only to have management brush aside their concerns or not follow through on promised action. In some cases, employees are even punished at work for reporting harassment. In some of the most extreme cases, the supervisors in charge of administering sexual harassment policies at work are the individuals responsible for the harassment.

Earlier this year, this blog discussed congressional hearings about sexual assault and sexual harassment in the nation’s military. Military leaders and lawmakers have promised action to try to curb the problem. However, the bad news keeps coming. In May, several different military officers who were in charge of sexual-assault response operations were themselves charged in connection with incidents of domestic violence or stalking.

Some of these incidents allegedly happened outside of work, so they are not necessarily cases of workplace sexual harassment. It should also be said that sexual assault and sexual harassment are not necessarily the same thing, and that the military is not like other workplaces. However, the situation illustrates some of the same problems facing many employees when they deal with sexual harassment at work.

Observers have said that one of the biggest problems in the military’s response to sexual assault or sexual harassment lies in getting the victims to report the abuse. They fear that reporting an incident will hurt their chances of getting a promotion.

Many civilian workers in Minnesota face the same fear. And when managerial personnel do not appear to be serious about their own harassment-prevention policies, employees often feel that reporting violations would be pointless.

It should not have to be that way. Sexual harassment is against the law, and when employers do not take it seriously, employees should investigate their legal options.

Source: MPR News, “Head Of Sexual-Harassment Program At Fort Campbell Arrested,” Krishnadev Calamur, May 16, 2013

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