Let’s be perfectly clear: You can’t go around recording private conversations without permission, so don’t start trying to catch sexual harassment on film unless you’re completely sure it’s legal to record.
That being said — you may not have to deliberately try to catch a harasser in the act on camera for it to happen. Gone are the days that every sexual harassment case boiled down to a matter of “he said, she said.” Now, there’s a strong possibility that an act of harassment will get caught on tape.
Cameras are simply everywhere in American society. Security cameras are installed all over workplaces in an effort to protect employees and data systems from danger, and they’re perfectly legal. In addition, almost everyone has a mini recording device right on the cellphone they’re carrying in their purse or pocket.
It’s also perfectly legal to use a recording device in public places where there’s no expectation of privacy — and people are constantly snapping photos and making videos for Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram.
Lately, cameras have played important roles in two high-profile sexual harassment incidents. One involves a series of incidents on the set of the CBS drama Bull. Actress Eliza Dushku contended that she was sexually harassed by series star Michael Weatherly — then promptly fired when she complained about the treatment.
CBS somewhat dismissed the star’s behavior as an ill-played joke and implied that, just maybe, the actress didn’t have room to complain since she’d used some pretty bawdy language herself while on set.
Except the film they rolled out to show mediators didn’t end up showing Dushku’s bad side after all. Instead, the cameraman had actually caught some of the harassment she’d suffered on tape. CBS settled her suit for $9.5 million — the balance of her contract.
In another incident, actor Kevin Spacey stands accused of sexually harassing a young server in a bar, groping him without permission. The young man filed a criminal complaint against the actor — and information has come to light that he actually sent film of the harassment to his girlfriend as it was happening through a Snapchat video.
If you’ve been sexually harassed, don’t overlook the possibility that the act has been recorded. If there’s any possibility, bring it to your attorney’s attention immediately so that he or she can aim to preserve the evidence as quickly as possible.