Sex worker sues for sexual harassment…and wins

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In a world-first case, a prostitute has won damages for sexual harassment by her boss, a brothel owner in New Zealand.

The local Human Rights Review Tribunal awarded the 22-year-old sex worker $25,000 for enduring three months of harassment from her older, male employer. The court records indicate that he consistently made inappropriate comments about the nature of her work, saying he could do what he liked with his employees. He also criticized her weight, saying “you should walk into work and not get driven”, and also tried to intimidate the worker to prevent her from being involved with the New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective, a sex workers’ rights group.

The court found that “sex workers are as much entitled to protection from sexual harassment as those working in other occupations. The fact that a person is a sex worker is not a licence (sic) for sexual harassment, especially by the manager or employer at the brothel.”

Because prostitution is legal in New Zealand, the country’s sex workers enjoy the same rights as other employees. Unless the occupation is legalized in the US, it's unlikely that we will see such cases win, but there was a recent case with similar repercussions. In January 2012, a Maryland district court awarded damages to an exotic dancer after her boss subjected her to lewd comments and unwanted approaches.

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