A Reminder that All Are Equal-Opportunity Harassers

After a two-year hiatus, American Idol is back on the air…  Please try to contain your excitement!  It’s been in the news lately not so much for its hilarious outtakes of woefully awful singers or the high drama of killing burgeoning singers’ dreams in an instant, but for illustrating a key employment law take-away. 

I’ll set the stage for you.  A young hopeful Idol from Oklahoma is on the stage during his audition interview when Luke Bryan, one of this year’s judges, asks, “Have you kissed a girl and liked it?”  For anybody who is not “in-the-know”, this is a nod to fellow Idol judge Katy Perry’s song which discloses, “I kissed a girl and I liked it.”  As if the question was not inappropriate enough, Ms. Perry then goads the contestant into walking down to where she is seated and convinces him to kiss her on the cheek.  Apparently this was disappointing because then she quickly turned her head and kissed him on the lips.  After the kiss, the contestant remarked that he was uncomfortable with the situation and had wanted to save his first kiss for his first relationship when it would be special. 

So how does this high drama tale tie into employment law?  This unfortunate situation should be a reminder to all employees, managers, and human resources professionals that sexual harassment is gender blind.  Men can harass women, woman can harass men, men can harass men, and women can harass women.  All are equal-opportunity harassers and complaints of harassment should not fall on deaf ears if not seen as the stereotypical form of harassment.