I think we've all been in uncomfortable situations, but when someone is making unwanted advances towards you in the workplace; it's hard to believe that you are experiencing sexual harassment. This week a Florida woman alleges sexual harassment, including unwanted physical contact, by a congressman.
The accusations against the congressman first came to light last year when the employee worked as a policy advisor on the same commission as the congressman. According to the employee, the first advances came in 2007 during her first meeting, and he allegedly gave unwanted hugs and made sexually suggestive remarks. Further encounters were also documented by the employee, with the most recent incident happening in 2010.
The congressman has denied all allegations and in a statement said, "The acts alleged are contrary to my character and to the main objective of my career in Congress, advancing the civil rights of all people." The congressman is the ranking Democrat on the agency commission, responsible for monitoring compliance with the 1975 Helsinki Accords.
An investigation is underway by the House Ethics Committee. The committee is gathering additional information to complete its review of the allegations.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious legal matter. And like the employee in this case, she documented in detail when the harassment occurred. If you find yourself in a similar situation, it's in your best interest to seek a qualified attorney familiar with employment law. An attorney could navigate the complexities involved with a sexual harassment case and could advise you on the best way to protect your rights.
Our legal system is set up to give defendants the opportunity to present their side of the story, and this is also true for the congressman. While the House Ethics Committee is reviewing the allegations, this does not indicate that the harassment occurred. However, the committee has an obligation to investigate all complaints that are brought to their attention.
Source: Reuters, "Report details harassment claim against Congressman Hastings," Alex Dobuzinskis, Jan. 11, 2012