Sexual harassment: what crosses the line?

November 29, 2017 07:25 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Matt Lauer is the latest in a series of powerful men facing an allegation of sexual misconduct.

There are certain things that rise to the level of sexual harassment, says Saratoga Springs attorney Giovanna D'Orazio.  Her law firm, D'Orazio Peterson, specializes in personal injury and employment law, including sexual harassment cases.


"From a legal standpoint, the standard for sexual harassment is what's called severe and pervasive.  So you're looking for sexually-charged comments, jokes, could be physical, could be sharing sexually explicit materials in the workplace, and it has to rise to that level from a legal standpoint," said D'Orazio.  "Or we're looking at what's called quid pro quo sexual harassment, which is where your boss or a superior is sort of expecting sexual favors in return for continued employment or for a promotion."

Marcia Pappas, the former president of New York NOW, the National Organization for Women, said women are getting rid of that fear of saying what actually happened to them.

"I think this is a pivotal moment for women.  That's the great thing.  We're seeing now every single day that women are coming forward, fearless, to tell their story," she said.

"I think women have been holding back for decades because they have seen the abuse that victims endure when they do come forward," said Pappas.

Some experts say in Lauer's case, from what is known so far, NBC appears to have acted quickly and pre-emptively.

"From an employer's perspective, maybe that the tide seems to be changing a little bit. We are starting to see maybe that people are not going to tolerate sort of any type of sexually charged conduct in the workplace -- things that maybe from a legal standpoint are going to be more difficult, but we're seeing the burden being put on employers now to not tolerate that kind of behavior," said D'Orazio.

Advocates like D'Orazio say they'd like to see employers foster safe environments, and then take quick action, if warranted.


Kumi Tucker

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