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CHICAGO MAN CHARGED WITH SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF FEMALE ROBOT

Thursday, December, 5 2013 Posted: 13:20 EST



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Chicago, IL (HLN) – In what may be the first case of its kind, charges have been filed against a Chicago man for harassing a female subordinate who worked in Los Angeles.

The novel portion of the complaint is that female telecommuter never met her manager in person. How then could an assault have occurred? This is where the case gets interesting. The victim was a beta-tester for Beam, a remote-presence robot made by Suitable Technologies. Equipped with a microphone, speakers and wheels, the roughly 5-foot tall robot projects the operator’s face onto a display while it broadcasts a camera’s view back to the operator creating the illusion of presence.

These tele-presence robots were lampooned on ABC’s The Good Wife where mean-spirited co-workers would drive the machines into impasses and thwart the operators’ sight by hanging objects over the lenses. With their limited mobility and lack of limbs, the robots were defenseless. But what was funny on TV turned out to be quite serious in the real workplace.

Attorneys for the victim state that a manager’s repeated pranks and interference with mobility made her feel disabled and therefore subject to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The complaint goes on to state that: "...the robot became an appendage and physical harm to it caused psychological pain to the operator not unlike the phantom-limb sensations felt by amputees. [the manager’s] repeated fondling of the area under the operator’s face also made her feel as though he was fondling her breasts."

The Civil Rights Act defines sexual harassment as: "[u]nwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." Attorneys for the victim, Gloria Allred and Kim Kleckner, are confident they have a case. "Cyber-bullying and cyber-stalking are both recognized as predatory behaviors." said Allred when pressed about the matter. "Just because he fondled her cyber-body doesn’t mean he didn’t harass the human being inside."



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