Is It Harassment? How Do You Know? Even More Important, How Do They Know?

Arizona Corrections Dept. Employee’s Sex Harassment Suit Settles for $182,500 

According to the The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,  employers should establish, distribute to all employees, and enforce a policy prohibiting harassment and setting out a procedure for making complaints. In most cases, the policy and procedure should be in writing.  Small businesses may be able to discharge their responsibility to prevent and correct harassment through less formal means. For example, if a business is sufficiently small that the owner maintains regular contact with all employees, the owner can tell the employees at staff meetings that harassment is prohibited, that employees should report such conduct promptly, and that a complaint can be brought “straight to the top.” If the business conducts a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of any complaint that arises and undertakes swift and appropriate corrective action, it will have fulfilled its responsibility to “effectively prevent and correct harassment.”

An employer is always responsible for harassment by a supervisor that culminated in a tangible employment action. If the harassment did not lead to a tangible employment action, the employer is liable unless it proves that: 1) it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to complain to management or to avoid harm otherwise

There Are Various Different Ways to Ensure The Protection And Education Of Your Employees

Depending on your company size, location(s), culture and overall needs, there are choices.  Large companies may opt to have their Management Teams take over this responsibility for existing staff education, and some have new employees watch a video or participate in an online session which includes some form tracking or testing to ensure they were paying attention.  Whatever you decide is best for your large or small business, the responsibility “trickles up” to the top when an employee decides to file a claim.

Don Not Assume That Everyone’s “Common Sense” Is Actually Common.

Not too long ago, the main visual available was an excellent movie called  “9 To 5”  which displayed blatant harassment.  While this movie brought the subject to light during a time when many victims were in the dark about their rights, laws have evolved to further protect employees

Make it clear that;

  • It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
  • Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
  • Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.
  • Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).
  • 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.

Small to mid-size companies could benefit from bringing in a professional consultant to manage their training substance and materials.  Regardless of “who” or “how” it is done,


Seal of the United States Equal Employment Opp...
Seal of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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