Italian judge finally punishes workplace sexual harassment

In a decision hailed as the first of its kind by the Italian press, an Italian judge awarded more than 100,000 Euro in damages to a woman who claimed her boss sexually harassed her for years.

Janna Brancolini
Janna Brancolini Kheiro Magazine, Italy
Source: Kheiro Magazine
Italian judge finally punishes workplace sexual harassment - NewsMavens
Pixabay, woman in office.

Why this story matters:

Starting in 2008, the owner of the small textile company where the woman worked in Lombardy made graphic sexual comments both privately and in front of her colleagues. The woman was finally forced to press charges in civil court in Como in 2013.

Now, the judge has ruled in her favor, fining the man 105,000 Euro and ordering him to pay court costs. 

The decision appeared to be the first time damages were awarded for strictly verbal work-place sexual harassment.

News of the decision was cheered in a country that has lagged behind the rest of Western Europe in the #metoo era. While countries such as the UK and France are having major cultural and political reckonings, including emphasis on equal pay and movements to strengthen workplace rights, women in Italy have struggled to create similar momentum.

Details from the story:

  • From 2008 to 2013, the owner of a small textile company in Lombardy made sexually explicit comments to a female employee that humiliated her and caused panic attacks.
  • In the past, Italian judges have dismissed such behavior as harmless jokes, saying lewd comments were immature but didn't really hurt the victims. 
  • Italy's top appeals court, the Court of Cassation, had even previously recognized the harm caused to victims, but trial court judges refused to apply the law. 
  • The recent damages award left many Italian women feeling vindicated, both because the court finally recognized their personal dignity and because the law -- and its consequences -- were properly applied at last.   
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