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Workplace "harassment" is now regarded as an evil in every western country. But exactly what class of persons is threatened by "harassment"? And exactly what evil does the law forbidding "harassment" aim to combat? The best-known, and internationally most influential, use of the term "harassment" comes from American law. In the American conception, "harassment" is a form of discrimination, a way of tormenting members of minority and other disadvantaged groups seeking upward social mobility through work. Laws forbidding such harassment first appeared as a way of protecting racial minorities in the United States. But today the law's most frequently discussed target is sexual harassment, harassment inflicted upon people (most especially upon women) on account of sex. This American law of harassment has had a stunning international influence, at least on paper. The American example has inspired the passage of statutes all over the world -- not least in continental Europe where, prodded by the European Union, every country now has law forbidding harassment on the basis of sex.

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