15 Nov Your Business, Human Resources, Sexual Harassment…What is the REAL deal?
If you have been watching the news, listening to a radio, talking to a friend, or just existing in the world today, you most likely have become aware of some serious harassment claims that have been made in the media. Many of these claims are discussing large corporations however small and medium sized companies can absolutely experience a sexual harassment lawsuit as well.
As a business owner, a harassment lawsuit is definitely NOT something that you hope to ever encounter. General harassment is a large umbrella that encompasses many different topics including sexual harassment.
We at CYB Human Resources want to help you learn a bit about what sexual harassment truly is and how you can prevent sexual harassment in your workplace.
So, let's get started...
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While Title VII is the base level for sexual harassment claims, states have sexual harassment laws which may be even more strict.
The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) defines workplace sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person's job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment."
Sexual harassment can range from persistent offensive sexual jokes to inappropriate touching to posting offensive material on a bulletin board.
What are the two types of sexual harassment?
- Quid pro quo: A person in authority, usually a supervisor, demands that subordinates tolerate sexual harassment as a condition of getting or keeping a job or job benefit, including promotions and raises. A single instance of harassment is sufficient to sustain a quid pro quo claim (e.g., a superior demands you go on a date with them in order to keep your job), while a pattern of harassment is typically required to qualify as a hostile work environment.
- Hostile work environment harassment is grounds for legal action when the conduct is unwelcome, based on sex, and severe or pervasive enough to create an abusive or offensive working environment. Elements which courts analyze in determining whether a hostile sexual harassment claim is valid include:
- Whether the conduct was verbal, physical, or both;
- Frequency of the conduct;
- Whether the conduct was hostile or patently offensive;
- Whether the alleged harasser was a co-worker or supervisor;
- Whether others joined in perpetrating the harassment; and
- Whether the harassment was directed at more than one individual or singled out the victim.
Who can be sexually harassed?
The harassed can be a woman or a man, the same or opposite sex.
Who can be a harasser?
The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.
How do you prevent sexual harassment in your workplace?
- It is very important to be sure that your Company has an updated Sexual Harassment policy in place that has been reviewed and acknowledged by every employee at the company.
- Each employee should be trained on what sexual harassment is and how to handle an instance that may constitute sexual harassment. Managers must be trained on how to handle a situation when it is brought to their attention, knowing that as managers of a company, they may hold individual liability if the situation is not handled correctly and a lawsuit is brought against the Company.
- The most important step in this process is to contact your Human Resources Department. Any type of discrimination is a serious claim and should be handled with the utmost seriousness and care.
Always remember, a sexual harassment claim is nothing to mess with! A simple mistake or even saying something inappropriate can give an employee a reason to file a lawsuit. In order to prevent this, it is very important that all management employees have been trained by a Human Resources Professional on how to handle these situations.
If you are interested in learning more about Sexual Harassment Training, General Management Training, creating a Sexual Harassment Policy, managing a sexual harassment claim, or just learning more about Human Resources, give us a call!
We look forward to speaking with you and assisting you with any of your Human Resource Management needs!