Sexual harassment is one of the most common types of harassment that can occur at the workplace. While it would be nice if all of your employees respected one another and no one ever made a sexual advance, that is not always the case. Individuals are protected by the law in these circumstances, and if a case of sexual harassment is brought to your attention and you do not adequately deal with it, then you could be facing legal action. Have solid policies in place and make sure everyone understands that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.
Protections in Place
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of sex. This is a federal law that applies to all companies that employ 15 or more workers. However, state and local laws may be in place to protect organizations that have fewer employees. Regardless of the size of your company, you should have a policy that clearly lays out what is not accepted. As soon as someone is hired to work for you, he or she should be given this policy so that there is no confusion. Training programs and classes may be needed in order to remind everyone of what actions constitute sexual harassment.
Types of Sexual Harassment
Educating your employees will also mean that they understand when they are experiencing harassment. There are two forms of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile environment. Quid pro quo harassment refers to a superior within the company offering a promotion or raise to an individual only if he or she engages in a certain sexual activity. This can be a single occurrence, or it could happen frequently in order for the employee in question to retain certain privileges. Either way, it is an action that should not take place.
A hostile environment claim is when an employee experiences something that creates an unpleasant environment to work in. Making threats, making certain gestures, asking for sexual favors or actually assaulting someone are all considered sexual harassment, and they need to be deal with swiftly.
When an Employee Comes to You
The important thing to remember when an employee turns to you because he or she has been sexually harassed is to take all claims seriously. It is rarely in anyone’s best interest to make something up, so take swift action to prevent further harassment from occurring. Sometimes speaking with the person doing the harassing is all that is needed. Someone may have told a joke that others could view as offensive or someone may touch co-workers because that is just part of his or her personality. Some people are genuinely unaware that certain actions can be construed as sexual harassment, so talking with the individual about it is sometimes all that is needed to stop the behavior.
Make sure to write down all claims and actions taken. In the event that you do have to go to court, you can show that you acted on the sexual harassment claim and did everything in your power to prevent it. However, you really should do everything you can to stop it in-house. Employees can turn to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to file a lawsuit and investigate the charges. If you do go to court, then you may be liable for paying punitive damages, compensatory damages, back pay and attorneys’ fees.
As hard as it may be to accept that someone you hired is capable of sexually harassing another human being, it is a scenario you need to be prepared for. Brush up on the law in your city and state in order to see what is expected of you. In the event that sexual harassment does occur at your business, then you will be knowledgeable about how to get through it with everyone ending up happy.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.