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Sexual harassment in the halls of power: New York staffers speak out

It's disturbing, to say the least, any time sexual harassment happens at work or anywhere else. But it's especially pernicious when bosses and other people in positions of power try to wield their power in a sexual way. Do they think they're being subtle? Powerful and intelligent people may think their sexually offensive behavior is somehow permissible, but they're wrong.

These matters will in part be the subject of hearings scheduled for the New York state legislature on Feb. 13. The topic: sexual harassment in state government -- specifically, sexual harassment by state lawmakers.

Staffers for the state legislature have been calling for the hearings

For nearly a year, the Sexual Harassment Working Group -- consisting of seven former staffers who reported or experienced sexual harassment while working for the government -- has been calling for the legislature to hear testimony. Now that time has come.

As Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Collins put it, "We need to deal with the scourge of sexual harassment in the workplace. We will hold all accountable."

You don't have to work in a high-power environment to be a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment

Quid pro quo -- meaning in Latin "this for that" -- is one form of sexual harassment. The harasser offers something of value -- a promotion, for example -- in exchange for a sexual "favor." This type of sexual harassment is unfortunately common not only in high-power work environments like state legislatures or the executive offices of major corporations; quid pro quo harassment happens in all types of employment situations.

Regardless of the type of work environment, often the quid pro quo harasser is an otherwise trusted person in a position of authority, and it can be confusing and difficult for the victim to know how to respond and how to report such harassment.

Fortunately for employees, New York has some of the strongest anti-harassment laws in the world. If you have been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, talk to an experienced employment law attorney about holding the harasser accountable and joining the fight against sexual harassment in all types of workplaces.

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