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  • Self-Proclaimed Cougar Gets Jail Time for Sexual Harassment

    Sexual harassment is not solely a workplace concern for women. While it stands to reason that under the law both the victim and the harasser can be either male or female, and that they can also be of the same sex, it still surprises many when men file claims. According to the EEOC however, suits filed by men hit an all time high of 16.4% in 2010.  Last year’s rate was 16.3%; a number that dispels the stereotype of sexual harassment as unwelcome advances made by a man in a position of power over a woman working under his authority.

    But unwanted attention is unwanted attention. A recent case in the United Kingdom, illustrates how damaging harassment can be, and that women harassing men is no laughing matter. Additionally, this case raises the issue of when sexual harassment can rise to the level of a crime warranting jail time.

    Sexual harassment in the workplace is generally tried in the civil courts and resolved monetarily. Sometimes, however, criminal charges can also be filed. Most usually, criminal charges result from some unwelcomed physical contact.

    In Jeevani Wickramaratna’s case, the 44 year-old software engineer was given six months of jail time after the court heard evidence that she sent harassing messages to three men, in two separate workplaces.

    In the first instance, Wickramaratna, began sending inappropriate messages to married co-worker Paul Stokes. Apparently Stokes offered her a piece of his birthday cake, and an infatuation was born. Wickramaratna claimed that Stokes was having an affair with the “office Cougar” (slang term for an older woman who dates younger men) and sent him sexually explicit messages. Later messages stated that she was “setting him free,” and that she had told his family that they were having an affair and that he loved her.  Wickramaratna then posted on Facebook that Stokes was HIV positive, a false allegation. Stokes reported Wickramaratna to the police.

    Later while working for a different firm, Wickramaratna began sending abusive messages to her co-worker Pir Khan. She then reported Khan to her boss Kazeem Benzair for harassing her. As a result, both Wickramaratna and Khan were suspended. Wickramaratna then proceeded to send Benzair 107 abusive emails despite the fact that his wife, who was seriously ill, pleaded with her to stop.

    The impact of Wickramaratna’s actions was not lost on the judge, who remarked that with regards to Stokes, “[she]seriously risked damaging a happy and stable marriage and [she] caused him and his wife complete humiliation.” The judge also deemed her entirely incapable of telling the truth before sentencing her to jail.

    In California, Wickramaratna’s actions would likewise have constituted criminal harassment warranting jail time and would have violated California Penal Code Section 653m.

    Electronic contacts include emails and, as in this case, would also have covered Facebook messages. If you believe you’ve been the victim of workplace harassment, contact a sexual harassment lawyer in California. A sexual harassment lawyer in California will be able to review the facts of your case and provide a solution. Visit http://www.employmentlawlawyers.com/sexual-harassment-lawyer-california/ to find a lawyer in your area!