Power plays a big role in sexual harassment. For example, a boss might offer an employee a promotion on the basis they give them sexual favors in return.
A supervisor may make sexual comments about someone under their charge because they believe the employee will be too scared to tell anyone for fear of losing their job.
Yet the power hierarchy is not that simple
A client might also feel they have the power to sexually harass someone and get away with it, despite having no official authority over their victim.
One example could be a restaurant customer. They know that many restaurant managers are unlikely to make a fuss because they know customers can retaliate with a terrible online review. Hence they may fail to protect the server as they should and brush aside reports of harassment.
Another example is an important business client, especially one with a close personal relationship with the boss of the person being harassed. They might feel that the company won’t risk upsetting them and losing their business for a junior employee who claims they harassed her.
Employers cannot know everything that goes on under their roof
They cannot always be held responsible, either. Yet if they failed to do enough to prevent or address sexual harassment, a court might consider them liable.
The law still expects certain things from employers. For example, providing adequate training to prevent the chance that anyone thinks they could get away with harassment of their employees.
Or taking action when someone reports sexual harassment, regardless of who the harasser is.
If someone harassed you at work and you feel your employer did not do enough, seek legal help to understand your options.