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Sterling Employment Law

New book: White House a hostile work environment for women

Harassment in the workplace does not just happen in certain job fields or in particular areas of the country -- sadly, it is far more widespread than that. A new book from a muckraking journalist even alleges that under the Obama administration, the White House is a 'genuinely hostile workplace for women." The allegation of a hostile work environment is one of the book's more eye-popping claims.

The book, "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President" by Ron Suskind, is due to be published tomorrow. It is attracting some attention for its behind-the-curtains peek at what is supposed to be a very progressive and forward-thinking presidential administration.

For the book, Suskind interviewed several former Obama White House staff members. The allegation that the White House is a hostile work environment for female employees comes from former communications director Anita Dunn. Suskind quotes her as saying that the White House "fit(s) all of the classic legal requirements for a genuinely hostile workplace for women." Advance publicity for the book has not detailed what Dunn was referring to or elaborated on what made her reach that opinion.

Another female former staff member, who was quoted anonymously, said the White House was "boys' club," by which she seemed to mean that men were taken more seriously than women there.

Dunn and a few other sources quoted in the book have recently told reporters they feel they were misquoted or their comments were taken out of context. However, Suskind apparently had the cooperation of the White House with his project, so some political observers have doubted the sources' claims that they have been misrepresented.

If Dunn's allegations are true, it just goes to show that any workplace in the country can become a hostile work environment. Employers have a responsibility to make sure this does not happen, but they are not always vigilant. No one has tolerate a work environment that makes him or her feel scared, uncomfortable or threatened. If you feel your workplace is not up to par, you may consider speaking with an employment law attorney. They can help you pursue ways to get your workplace shipshape.

Source: Politico, "The WH 'a genuinely hostile workplace for women,'" Maggie Haberman, Sept. 17, 2011.

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