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Me Too: Sexual Harassment and Your Rights

Shocking allegations of sexual misconduct have dominated news headlines in recent weeks. Notable figures from Hollywood’s elite to Washington power players and beyond have become part of a sweeping avalanche of accusations and commentary that appear to have no end in sight. Even several high-profile journalists who would normally report on such lead stories have instead been suspended in the wake of serious accusations leveled against them.
Flint Attorney Dean T. Yeotis said it’s important for the accuser as well as the accused to know his/her legal rights.
“The law is clear on the definition of sexual misconduct. Unwelcomed words or physical touching of a sexual nature that is substantial and persistent over time is deemed sexual harassment,” explained Yeotis.
There are two types of sexual harassment recognized by federal law: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.
“Exchanging something for something as in the Hollywood ‘casting couch’ in exchange for a movie role or a promotion. That’s quid pro quo,” said Yeotis.
A hostile work environment exists when behavior in the workplace makes it difficult for an individual to perform his/her work. Sexual language, off-color jokes and suggestive remarks can fall under the definition of a hostile work environment.
Attorney Yeotis recommends the first course of action that should be taken by an individual who believes they are the victim of sexual harassment is to report the matter to a senior level executive or the human resources department. Unfortunately, victims who fear losing their job or don’t fully understand the laws in place to protect them often won’t report the incident he said.
“It’s illegal to fire someone for filing a sexual harassment claim at work. That’s deemed retaliation and grounds for legal action,” said Yeotis who has been handling such cases for more than thirty years.
“It’s been around and happening for a long time,” said Yeotis speaking on the spate of recent allegations making news headlines. “I think it’s social media, a backlash against President Trump and generally people being less willing to tolerate bad behavior and mistreatment that’s causing them to speak up now.”

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