Sex harassment should be obvious

Minnesota legislators are looking at a bill that would redefine what constitutes sexual harassment in Minnesota. Advocates of the bill say it is needed to lower the legal bar that makes it too hard for victims of harassment to seek protection.

It’s sad that we have to do this. Sexual harassment is pretty obvious when it happens and lawmakers should be able to come up with a workable definition that protects them.

One of the witnesses in a House committee hearing last week talked of how she had been harassed and stalked for more that a year by a pair of customers at the restaurant where she was a server. Her manager made her keep serving them because they kept asking for her, despite her complaints about lewd, suggestive language and unwanted touching. This is a case where the manager should have told the two lechers that they would be banned from the restaurant if they couldn’t behave themselves. The server should be able to sue her harassers, and the management for allowing them to harass her.

She did sue her employer, but the lawsuit was dismissed because the judge didn’t find the harassment met the “severe and pervasive” level required by law.

Critics of the new lower levels say it could bankrupt some small business who had to defend themselves against a claim. But employers who take harassment complaints seriously and take steps to put their workers’ safety first shouldn’t have a problem.