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New York readers are probably aware that situations can arise in the workplace that could be misinterpreted as sexual harassment. However, the law requires that any behavior must be pervasive and ongoing in order to constitute harassment. This eliminates the potential that a misinterpreted comment snowballs into a lawsuit.
Still, there are actions that clearly constitute harassment and it’s important to speak with an employment law attorney if you feel threatened by a co-worker or supervisor. Recent drama that unfolded at a quarterly literary magazine speaks to the fact that some people either don’t know, or don’t care, how their behavior comes across.
According to a report, the founder and editor of the Oxford American and his girlfriend were fired after an investigation by the board of directors. The investigation resulted in detailed accounts of unwanted sexual overtures and lewd comments made toward female interns. Apparently, the 49-year-old editor was fond of calling women “baby” and was overzealous with physical touching that he described as “paternalistic and nonsexual”.
“I understand that I walk a fine line with my joking, my banter,” he said, comparing himself to the inappropriate boss on “The Office.” “I have made bad jokes. My intent with regards to that humor is just as important.” As it turns out, his intent isn’t just as important. If behavior is sexually suggestive and offensive to others, it doesn’t matter the intent. The former editor at the Oxford Americanmust have missed the memo detailing sexual harassment laws. But he’s got plenty of time to get up to speed, now that he’s out of a job.
Source: New York Magazine, “The Bizarre Sexual-Harassment Scandal Shaking the Oxford American,” Joe Coscarelli, August 9, 2012