Sexual Harassment Scandal Raises Possibility of Reform

Iranian womanSexual harassment is a problem in workplaces all over the world, and while we should celebrate the progress made in this country in the past few decades, it is important also to note progress in other parts of the world. In early 2016, a female anchor at Press TV, Iran’s state-run, English-language news channel, released audio recordings of the channel’s news editor sexually harassing her. The ensuing scandal quickly resulted in the suspension of two executives, but it unfortunately also led to the anchor fleeing the country. A high-level media executive later resigned, and the Iranian president reportedly announced an effort to crack down on sex discrimination in the government. The Iranian legal system, according to numerous sources, heavily favors men over women in many aspects of society. While the long-term impact of the anchor’s case remains to be seen, it has at least produced a few hopeful signs.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits various forms of discrimination in the workplace, including discrimination on the basis of sex. At just over 50 years old, Title VII is still relatively new to America’s legal system. Sexual harassment did not acquire formal legal recognition as a form of unlawful sex discrimination for another 22 years, when the Supreme Court issued its decision in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986). State laws and laws in some cities, such as the New York State Human Rights Law and the New York City Human Rights Law, also protect workers against sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Despite all these legal protections, and a growing public dialogue about how to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, it remains an ongoing problem across the country.

As a general rule, U.S. statutes only apply on U.S. territory. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, however, Title VII applies to U.S. citizens in a foreign country who work for a U.S.-based employer. A U.S. employer in a foreign country is not bound by Title VII, however, if compliance would violate a law in that country. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1(b). Many countries have statutes that provide comparable or greater protections against sexual harassment, but the laws of some countries essentially establish sex discrimination, rather than fight against it. Sometimes, laws that appear to offer strong protections against sex discrimination actually offer few or none, due to a lack of enforcement.

The Iranian news anchor mentioned above posted an audio recording to the internet in early February of the channel’s news editor “requesting sexual favors” from her. Some accounts claim that he asked her for actual sexual contact, while others claim that he was asking for “phone sex.” Either request clearly constitutes sexual harassment.

The anchor’s post led to numerous women speaking out about their own experiences with sexual harassment in Iran, and the lack of support or resources available to them. The news channel reportedly fired two top executives as a result of the anchor’s report, and the country’s top media official reportedly resigned in May. A possibly hopeful result came in August, when the country’s president ordered a review of sex discrimination in the civil service.

The skilled and experienced sexual harassment lawyers at Phillips & Associates advocate for the rights of New York City employees and job seekers, helping them understand their rights and assert claims for sexual harassment and other unlawful employment practices. Contact us today online or at (212) 248-7431 to schedule a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Sexual Harassment Extends Beyond Employees and Co-Workers, Affects “Virtual Assistants”, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 20, 2016

Hair Salon Employees in New York City and Nationwide Fight Back Against Workplace Sexual Harassment by Customers, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 13, 2016

Phillips & Associates Prevails Before Second Circuit in Important Sexual Harassment, Retaliation Case, New York Employment Attorney Blog, September 6, 2016

Photo credit: Sonia Sevilla (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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