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What Does ‘Sexual Harassment’ Mean Today?

January 31, 2017

Knowledge@Wharton

After flaring up as a hot topic 25 years ago at the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court, sexual harassment gained renewed attention in 2016 with high-profile incidents including Harvard canceling its men’s soccer team season in November after school officials discovered that players were rating the school’s female players in sexually explicit terms. And Fox News chairman Roger Ailes resigned in July after on-air personality Gretchen Carlson sued, alleging that he co-mingled career advances and sexual advances.

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Companies can use sexual harassment seminars to head off problems — and yet new wrinkles keep coming. More employees are using social media and are working from home, and they can forget that these places are an extension of the workplace, says Chastity C. Bruno, a partner in the Philadelphia office of Montgomery McCracken. “Many employers monitor their cyber employees on Skype, or other similar types of software applications,” says Bruno. “The employees, however, have another computer set up where they are chatting on Snapchat or other tools with other employees, and because people are multitasking, or they are running dual screens, they are not thinking that that information is being recorded, and they don’t necessarily think it’s anything bad. Although, there could be a conversation between two employees having locker room talk, and someone else joins the conversation and they are offended. Employees can’t do that because it could be considered harassment.”

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