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Michigan State punishes retired professors for sexual harassment

by | Jul 21, 2021 | Workplace Sexual Harassment |

Incidents of workplace sexual harassment never seem to go away. As long as harassers continue to believe such unlawful and demeaning behavior is acceptable, sexual harassment will continue to occur at any work environment.

However, such behavior, eventually, catches up with the harasser, who gets punished in certain ways. Look at the recent situation at Michigan State University. In May, two former professors had their honorary emeritus titles removed for violating the school’s policies pertaining to sexual harassment.

Did the school fumble in its efforts?

Michigan State seemed to fumble in its dealings with workplace sexual harassment. The two former professors at Michigan State had their honorary titles removed earlier this year, despite having been investigated years earlier.

The school had investigated Charles Steinfield, a former professor of media and information, in 2012 and Thomas Vogel, a professor of environmental science, in 2016. Steinfield held the emeritus title for several years even after the school punished him for sexual misconduct. Vogel already had the emeritus title before the school found that he had violated sexual misconduct policies.

Document every incident of harassment

If you are the victim of workplace sexual harassment, there are some steps to take to protect yourself and prove your case:

  • Maintain complete details of every incident and situation. Make sure to record the days, time, locations, description of the incident as well as the name of witnesses who will corroborate your story. Avoid using a workplace computer to record it. Instead, rely on a notebook or your own computer.
  • Save every single piece of evidence that supports your claim. These include notes, emails, texts and social media posts that display evidence that the harasser targets you.
  • Become well-versed in the sexual harassment policies of your employer. Understand the employee handbook and how the company addresses this important issue.
  • Report every single incident to your manager or a human resources representative. However, if your manager is the harasser, contact human resources or another trusted manager within your company. If the offense is egregious enough and a crime committed, call authorities.

Not even higher education is immune from workplace sexual harassment. It is time that employers such as Michigan State take these incidents more seriously. If they do not, they continue to open themselves up to lawsuits.


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