Workplace sexual predators: A few uncomfortable truths
Workplace sexual predators: have increasingly been brought to justice in the age of the MeToo movement. However, workplace sexual harassment is still a prevalent issue that many Australian workers face.
The latest figures from the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reveal that one in three employees have experienced harassment from workplace sexual predators in the last five years. While only a third of Australian employees believe their employer is sufficiently addressing the problem of workplace sexual harassment.
The surprising statistics around workplace sexual predators
Workplace sexual harassment has long been couched as an issue primarily affecting women – and with good reason. The AHRC figures show that an astonishing 41 per cent of women have experienced sexual harassment in the past five years. But equally as astonishing is that 26 per cent of men have reported experiencing the same.
Female-on-male (or even male-on-male) sexual harassment isn’t a topic regularly broached in public discourse. And while cases of such harassment are far fewer than those involving male sexual predators harassing women, they’re not entirely uncommon. The AHRC figures state that 44 per cent of men who have experienced workplace sexual harassment have been the victim of a woman.
Female workplace sexual predator sexually assaults junior male employee
One example of female-on-male workplace sexual harassment is the case of Louis Oblea Jr, an entry-level loan officer for US-based company First Mutual Corporation. While newly employed there, Mr Oblea, who was aged in his early 20s, was subjected to routine sexual harassment by a senior female employee twice his age.
Mr Oblea was ultimately dismissed by the company for blowing the whistle on his workplace sexual predator, Ms Mesinger. Not long after Mr Oblea joined the company, Ms Mesinger wasted little time groping him and injecting sexual innuendos into their discussions. Mr Oblea informed his manager about the workplace sexual harassment. But she responded that Ms Mesinger, otherwise known as the “Pagan Princess,” simply does that to men. He was told to avoid her and that her sexual harassment would eventually cease.
Workplace sexual predator continues harassment
Taking his manager’s advice, Mr Oblea did his best to avoid Ms Mesinger. But then one day he opened his work email to discover that she was back at it. Opening an email, Mr Oblea saw a photo of a naked Ms Mesinger performing a sex act on herself. And then not long after, he received another. This time, it contained a photo of another women dressed in bondage gear.
Mr Oblea immediately showed the photos to his manager and entreated her to do something about the ongoing workplace sexual harassment. This time, the manager escalated his complaint, but it didn’t get very far up the company’s hierarchy. That’s because Ms Mesinger was one of the company’s cash cows, responsible for bringing in its biggest clients.
Employee is threatened by workplace sexual predator
Making matters worse was that Mr Oblea was a mere loan officer at the start of his career. And a few days later, Mr Mesinger reminded him of this fact via email, warning him to reconsider his complaining. And not only that, his position at the company. Then, not a few weeks later, First Mutual dismissed Mr Oblea for poor performance. That was despite his manager recently informing him that he was performing well.
Employee awarded sexual harassment payout
Incensed by his treatment at First Mutual, Mr Oblea filed a lawsuit against the company via the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The crux of his suit was that the company had ritually ignored his complaints of workplace sexual harassment. This, under US law, is considered a civil rights violation. The EEOC found that Mr Oblea had been dismissed as retaliation for raising complaints about his workplace sexual predator. And First Mutual eventually reached a settlement with him, agreeing to pay US$25,000 (around $35,000 Australian) in damages.
Male-on-male sexual harassment is on the rise
The male-sexual predator, female victim paradigm is of course the most common when it comes to workplace sexual harassment. But when it comes to the one in four men who have experienced sexual harassment, many have done so at the hands of another male. In fact, the AHRC figures reveal that 55 per cent of men who reported suffering workplace sexual harassment had been the victim of another man.
Perhaps the most well-known story of male-on-male workplace sexual harassment was that experienced by US actor Terry Crews. His story came to light on Twitter in 2017, just as the first reverberations of the MeToo movement were being felt across the world.
While the vast majority of victims to share their sexual harassment stories were women, Crews was the notable exception. Crews described how at a movie industry function in 2016 he was groped by an unnamed male executive. What’s more, the groping to his genitals took place in front of his wife. While they both stood in shock, Crews said that the executive “grinned like a jerk.” Crews said that he considered physically assaulting the executive. But the then 49-year-old worried that such an act would see him smeared in the press the next day. Crews also decided not to go public with the incident as he thought he would be ostracised professionally.
Male worker sexually harassed by male boss
Across social media, there are countless tales of workers from around the globe who have experienced the trauma of dealing with a workplace sexual predator. On Reddit, a white collar worker in his late 20’s detailed his experience with male-on-male sexual harassment.
The worker said that his workplace sexual predator, a man in his 50’s, was also his boss. The worker describes how he was regularly invited to social gatherings by his boss, which were also attended by co-workers. However, one night he turned up to a dinner to be greeted by just his boss and another man. Then when conversation ensued, the worker quickly realised that something wasn’t quite right.
“This was one of the most awkward things that’s ever happened to me… they kept steering the conversation to sex and whether I had any gay inclinations,”Innocent worker
Male workplace sexual predator commences harassment
The worker, who is heterosexual, said that ever since that night his boss slowly started to exhibit the behaviour of a workplace sexual predator. “Ever since then, my boss has been quite flirty when no one else is around,” he writes. And having failed to reciprocate his boss’ unwelcome flirtations, the worker says that he experienced unfair treatment. “He gave me a horrible performance evaluation, which I feel is mostly unwarranted,” he writes, adding that his boss provided such a poor evaluation that “I could be put on probation.”
The workplace sexual harassment that the worker endured has left him searching for answers. Specifically, if his boss is trying to get him into bed or is simply retaliating against him. “I am not sure if he is trying to entice me into having sex with him or just punishing me for rejecting his advances” he writes. “Either way, I think I’m being punished by him for a sexual reason.”
Female-on-Female sexual harassment is a phenomenon too
The AHRC figures state that only nine per cent of women who have experienced workplace sexual harassment have been the victim of another woman. But when you consider that 41 per cent of Australian female workers have experienced workplace sexual harassment, the proportion of female-on-female harassment still amounts to a significant figure.
One example of female-on-female workplace sexual harassment was that committed by Miki Agrawal, CEO of US-based company THINX. The glaring irony of this case is that THINX’s main product is “period underwear.” And the company advertises itself with overtly feminist branding and mission statements. What’s more, Ms Agrawal had at one point stated in a promotional video that “My favorite thing to talk about are the things you’re not supposed to talk about.” This was a particularly curious statement given what she subjected her female employees to.
Female CEO sexually harasses female employees
In 2017, THINX head of public relations Chelsea Leibow filed a complaint to the City of New York Commission on Human Rights against Ms Agrawal. She alleged that the CEO had regularly made sexual comments about herself and her female employees. This included comments about:
- The size and shape of their breasts.
- An employee’s nipple piercings.
- Her personal sexual encounters.
- Her wish to try polyamory.
- Her desire to have sex with one of her employees.
- How she experienced a female ejaculation.
In addition to these sexually charged comments, Ms Agrawal was alleged to have on one occasion fondled the breasts of an employee. She also often stripped off her clothes in front of employees and ran video conference meetings while unclothed in bed. Ms Agrawal had additionally showed employees naked pictures of herself and her fiancé. And on one occasion, she had joined a video conference meeting while on the toilet. Ms Agrawal stepped down as CEO of THINX following the filed compliant, which she deemed “baseless” and “without merit.”
Have you experienced workplace sexual harassment?
I hope the article “Workplace sexual predators: A few uncomfortable truths” has been insightful for you. The trauma of suffering workplace sexual harassment is of course overwhelming for many employees. But you must remember that you have the power to bring your abuser to justice by making a sexual harassment complaint through the Fair Work Commission or Australian Human Rights Commission.
We at A Whole New Approach are Australia’s leading workplace mediators who can guide you through the process of making a complaint. We’ve helped over 16,000 Australian workers take action through the Fair Work Commission and various discrimination and equal opportunity bodies in the last two decades. Issues around respect at work, unfair dismissal or sexual harassment cases give us a call immediately
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Call us today on 1800 333 666 for a confidential discussion about your situation and how we can help.