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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Why It Persists Despite Widespread Awareness

Via pixabay

With explosive stories coming out of Hollywood and other industries, we look at this issue in New Hampshire: how workplace harassment is defined, in what settings it occurs, why it continues despite widespread awareness, and what role the legal system and human resource departments play.   


  • Debra Altschiller - Community Liaison for HAVEN, the largest domestic and sexual violence crisis response and violence prevention education program in NH. She delivers talks and sexual harassment prevention programs for people entering and re-entering the workforce. She serves on the NH Human Trafficking Collaborative Task Force, the NH Oversight Commission of Children's Services and is a member of the NH House of Representatives, representing Stratham.
  • Sarah Mattson Dustin - Director of Policy at the New Hampshire Women's Foundation. She leads the Foundation’s research and policy work. Sarah worked for over a decade as a legal aid lawyer, focusing on anti-poverty advocacy at the New Hampshire Legislature. The Women’s Foundation invests in opportunity and equality for New Hampshire women and girls.
  • Terri Pastori, An attorney with the Concord-based firm, Pastori-Krans. She represents employers and employees in harassment cases and does workplace training on preventing harassment in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. She has argued cases in federal and state courts and has represented clients in state administrative agencies, as well as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 



  • The Weinstein Ripple Effect: Famous Men Accused of Sexual Harassment and Assault.   
  • The problem of sexual harassment is worse in low-profile, low-accountabilty, and low-wage industries.  
  • How to recognize and addresssexual harassment in the workplace:  Experiences of harassment belong in a continuum of sexual violence. This ranges from innocuous spoken and unspoken behavior, to experiences of unwanted physical contact and sexual assault or rape.
  • Mona Charen of The National Review writes:  The men = bad, women = good slogan is a bit too simplistic.
  • Jia Tolentino of The New Yorker writes: The increasing narrative clarity about male power does not always translate to progress. 
  • In 1986, the Supreme Court affirmed that sexual harassment that creates a hostile work environment can also amount to sex discrimination. But, says Mark Joseph Stern in this Slate article: Even as the court expanded the definition of actionable sexual harassment, it failed to answer a key question: When is an employer liable for harassment in the workplace? The justices finally created a complex theory of liability in 1998.
  • Does HR exist to protect the employee or the company? This author says it's the latter
  • What is the role of nondisclosure agreements in keeping harassment claims secret? 

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