Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace. But a lot of cases seem to occur in workplaces that were traditionally male-dominated and in which a macho culture exists - like police departments. In a recent example, a woman officer with Nevada's Capitol Police in Carson City is suing several officers and the Department of Public Safety, alleging sexual harassment and age discrimination.
According to the woman's allegations, several male officers made sexually inappropriate comments and at least one engaged in inappropriate touching. She says that one officer, a firearms instructor, made numerous hostile remarks about her size and the fact that she was a woman. Another allegedly suggested that she wasn't up to the job because she was female, and said she had a poor memory because of her age. The woman officer is one of only two female officers on the force who are over the age of 40. This officer also allegedly shouted at her and told her the force had lowered its standards when it hired her. Another officer allegedly rubbed up against her, and yet another allegedly spoke to her about watching pornography at a previous job.
The woman also accuses a former chief and a sergeant of failing to take action when the harassment was reported. The woman's lawsuit alleges that the harassment led to a hostile work environment, and that she was subjected to retaliation for reporting it.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and it is illegal under federal and Nevada law. In many cases it is not what employers do that gets them into trouble, but what they don't do. Employers can avoid liability if they can show they promptly and effectively dealt with the problem as soon as it was reported. But if, as the woman alleges here, supervisory or management personnel were told of the problem and did nothing, the employer can end up paying damages to the victim.
Source: Nevada Appeal, "Capitol Police sued over alleged mistreatment of female officer," Geoff Dorman, Sept. 5, 2013