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What should the consequences be for workplace sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment has been occurring in workplaces in Minnesota and throughout the country for a long time, but now it seems this topic is getting much-needed attention in the daily news cycle, both locally and nationwide. High-powered executives, movie producers and even politicians are facing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. Now that these allegations are out in the public light, the next issue needs to be addressed: What should the consequences be for individuals who engage in workplace sexual harassment?

A recent article explored this topic, noting that many well-known individuals are facing sexual harassment allegations. In essence, the article broke the consequences down into two areas: legal and cultural.

The legal consequences are where the perpetrators of sexual harassment will be held accountable in a court of law. In some cases, there may be criminal charges. In other cases, the victims may pursue accountability and compensation in civil lawsuits. When the evidence is there, the legal consequences can be effective in addressing the issue of lewd comments, unwanted sexual advances and other sexually harassing conduct in the workplace.

The cultural consequences can be quite different. These consequences can be seen even when victims don't pursue legal options. In the face of allegations -- even when they have yet to be proven in court -- some of the accused harassers we see in the news these days are stepping down from their positions, resigning or even being fired. From a cultural standpoint, these individuals will always be associated with the sexual harassment allegations they face.

While it may seem like only those in powerful positions commit sexual harassment, in reality any person could face sexual harassment in the workplace, from their superior or even from a co-worker. When this happens, the victim of the harassment may want to do what is necessary to hold their harasser accountable.

Source:, "What should accountability for sexual misconduct look like?," Nov. 21, 2017

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