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AB 1825 Sex Harassment Trainer

A free resource for California employers about the sexual harassment training law (AB 1825).

Cross-Species Training?

AB 1825 says the sex harassment training for supervisors "shall include information and practical guidance [and] practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation...."

So, it may be useful to note that three women have sued the Gorilla Foundation for sexual harassment, claiming that they were encouraged to expose their nipples to Koko, a 33-year-old sign-language-talking female lowland gorilla.

The women's lawyers say Foundation President Dr. Penny Patterson interpreted Koko's signs as a cross-species come-on and pressured the women into girl-on-girlrilla sex play. One woman who put out for the primate "took it as a disagreeable duty of her employment."

The Foundation's lawyer (and coincidentally a law school comrade of mine), Todd Roberts, says that the charges are bunk.

Significantly (from a legal standpoint and thus for this blog), in 2003 the Legislature passed a law (AB 76) to clarify that employers can be held liable for failing to prevent employees from being harassed by non-employees - and presumably, non-human non-employees as well.

As the women's attorney Stephen Sommers says, "This is not about Koko asking people to take their clothes off. This is about Penny Patterson asking people to take their clothes off. If Koko does want it, Penny should discourage that behavior. There are better and more humane ways to bond with a 350-pound gorilla."

So, when providing practical examples of sexual harassment in a training, remember the primate potential and cover Koko. As the defendant Dr. Patterson says, "The differences between humans and gorillas are greatly overshadowed by what we have in common - and by communicating with them, we can learn as much about our own true nature as theirs."
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