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  • Sexual Harassment At Sea

    A recent suit filed against P&O Cruise Lines illuminates a dirty little secret about the cruise line industry; sexual harassment and sexual assault are real issues for passengers.

    And one such passenger appears to be making quite a statement against harassment on the high seas by filing a $1 million lawsuit against P&O as a result of a recent incident.

    Kate Strahan, a 50 year-old female passenger, participated in a singing competition while on board P&O’s ship the Pacific Jewel, but the comments from one of the judges left her so distraught that Strahan’s husband now claims that she can no longer work.

    In front of a 1200 passenger audience, the crewmember/judge said that he could see through her dress, commented on her breasts, made obscene gestures towards her image on the screen, and stated that she could “cougar him” anytime. These inappropriate comments and gestures are the basis for Strahan’s sexual harassment claim against P&O.

    Apparently, P&O has issued an apology and has told Strahan that the employee’s contract would not be renewed. However, the cruise line is not exactly taking the suit lying down. To the contrary, they are trying to have it thrown out of court for lack of jurisdiction, arguing that the incident took place outside of Australian waters and, therefore, sexual harassment laws do not apply.

    In terms of the sexual harassment generally, the claim encompasses many offensive behaviors including, but not limited to, unwanted physical or verbal sexual advances, unwanted touching, sexual gestures, derogatory comments or jokes, or comments about an individual’s body. But more serious charges of sexual battery and rape have also been reported on cruise ships. For more information on sexual harassment generally and as it applies to U.S. citizens consult a sexual harassment lawyer in San Bernardino.

    Cruise lines generally represent holding no tolerance policies for sexual harassment and sexual assault. The ordinary process for reporting harassment conduct includes an investigation by a security officer and a formal hearing in front of the Captain that could result in dismissal of the crewmember, or criminal charges under the applicable country’s Merchant Shipping legislation.

    In the United States, after a high profile lawsuit involving a nurse who claimed that a fellow crewmember raped her in the late nineties, the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL) adopted a policy that requires that all accusations of crimes involving a U.S. citizen or that take place on a ship that calls on a US port must be reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the US Coast Guard.

    Maybe it is the carefree feeling of being on a permanent vacation, or the impression that laws don’t apply to open water, or simply the combination of sun and fruity drinks, but crime on cruise ships is a real issue. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of a crime or has suffered sexual harassment while on board a cruise line as either passenger or crewmember, a sexual harassment lawyer in San Bernardino can help.