Groping, insulting, and threatening female employees has just resulted in an award by a federal jury in Tampa of $20.2 million in damages in an action which alleged a hostile work environment. The accused company officers did not appear at the trial (presumably because they tanked the company).
One 66-year old former employee said that "it made me physically ill. And I felt ashamed that I was there. One of the managers actually carried around a picture of his manhood on his cellphone, and he would stick it in one of the employee’s faces. And he sexually assaulted, violently, the back of my chair telling me ‘I’m going to show you what a dog is.’ And he physically almost knocked me off my chair."
The attorney for plaintiffs expressed it quite accurately: "Sexual harassment against women is really an issue of power. It’s an issue of men in the workplace trying to exert their power over these women."
We wrote previously about a German government report which affirmed what we have always believed, that “[i]n most cases, there is a big discrepancy in power between the perpetrator and the victim, and the former often abuse the latter’s dependence."
In our blog of December 27, 2012, we wrote that low status in the workplace has been found be a cause of harassment, according to a study by Illinois State professors Kimberly Schneider and Patricia Jarvis (and reported by Business News Daily). They found that adolescents employed as sales clerks or flipping burgers are more likely to be sexually harassed by older co-workers than adult employees, and more likely to be harassed than adolescents in jobs that provided more meaningful work and autonomy.
It should therefore come as no surprise that victims of harassment are more often of relatively low status and power in the workplace. As with people victimized throughout society, they are more often the victims of this “power differential.”