Friday, December 21, 2007

Is it sexual harassment?

Case Study: Gorilla Suit

Kendra was a research associate for The Gorilla Foundation. As part of her duties, Kendra helped care for Koko, the sign-language talking gorilla.

Using sign language, Koko is able to communicate with humans. Over the years, Koko has repeatedly requested that female human visitors display their breasts to her. In fact, certain of Koko's hand movements were interpreted as a "demand" by Koko to see exposed human nipples.

Accordingly, when Koko made the signs about Kendra, Koko's primary caregiver instructed Kendra to expose her breasts to Koko as a way to bond with the great ape.

Although Kendra used to regularly dress in front of the pet parrot that lived in the Foundation's women's locker room, Kendra is uncomfortable with Koko's "demand."

This scenario is based on a 2005 case called Keller v. The Gorilla Foundation. Could Kendra complain that she was sexually harassed?

* No, because Kendra exposed herself to the Foundation's parrot and Koko wanted Kendra do the same thing.

* Probably not, because Koko is not a human.

* Only if she first "signs" to Koko that she will not indulge Koko's request.

* Yes, and the Foundation was required to take effective action to stop the harassment from continuing.
--Actual material from a sexual harassment training course, as reported by

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