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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – How to Know When a Line Has Been Crossed

Picture of Nadine A. Jack

Nadine A. Jack

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In early February of 2022 president of CNN Worldwide Jeff Zucker announced to the world that he was resigning with immediate effect.

What prompted this abrupt exit? Mr Zucker was involved in a relationship with a direct subordinate, a stance that was a clear violation of his company’s policies. While this is not sexual harassment as both parties stressed the relationship was consensual, it was inappropriate.

Even companies with the most relaxed policies on inter-office relationships frown upon intimate relationships between employers and employees. This is usually because the credibility of any accolades or promotions bestowed upon the employee by the employer that they’re involved with will always be questioned, whether silently or outright.

Did they earn it? Or was this the reward for some act performed within their intimate relationship?

For example, while Zucker didn’t name his employee, investigations found that the other person in the relationship was Allison Gollust, his key lieutenant of more than twenty years. They commenced working together at NBC in 1998 and when Zucker joined CNN, Gollust was one of his first hires.

Gollust currently remains at CNN as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.

The irony in Jeff’s situation was that just two months prior, he fired CNN prime time anchor Chris Cuomo for “improperly advising his brother, then – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, about how to address sexual misconduct allegations.” An act that was deemed a gross conflict of interest for CNN. 

While all of the above makes great fodder for salacious gossip, I’d like to focus instead on the consensual nature of Jeff’s and Allison’s relationship. 

After working closely with a colleague for more than two decades, it would be natural to have a certain level of familiarity with them, although it should never be expected or obligated by either party for it to evolve into a relationship of an intimate or sexual nature. 

So how do we know the difference between an employer or co-worker being friendly or sexually harassing us?

Well, one main thing would be that their actions are inappropriate for the work environment, are unsolicited, make you uncomfortable, and are of a sexual nature whether overt or implied.

While these points are obviously not an exhaustive list, they touch on the essence of what sexual harassment in the workplace is.

For more details and specific laws that protect employees, plus the key things to note before reporting a colleague or employer to HR for sexual harassment, enrol in our free (for now) course here:

It takes less than an hour to complete and comprises informative videos which highlight various scenarios you may have experienced or could in the future. It ends in a short and easy multiple-choice quiz to test your knowledge of what you’ve just learned.

After taking this short course, you’ll know exactly what to do to take action and protect yourself from sexual harassment in the workplace.

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