Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Allegations of sexual harassment are on the news daily.  Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore, Mario Batali are just a few of the names we heard.

The call comes in, the employee knocks on your door . . . “I have a situation.”  This is a typical call that Consultants, Business Owners, and Human Resource department face often.  You are not alone, many people do not know what to do next.

Companies are struggling with how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.  Gone are the days when you can sweep this under the rug or hope it will go away on its own.

Even with all this attention, sexual harassment remains a poorly understood concept that often remains in the dark.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Federal agency tasked with enforcing laws barring discrimination against job applicants and employees, has a solid definition.

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

There are two kinds of sexual harassment:

1. Quid pro quo (Latin for “this for that” or “something for something”).

2. Hostile work environment.

Most victims don’t report it for fear of retaliation!

Q.  If an employee goes the Human Resource department or the Business Owner, what should they expect?

A.  Protection, but that is now always the case.  Today, traditional Human Resource departments are meant to indemnify organizations against lawsuits.

Q.  Can’t employees file suit or even criminal charges against the company?

A.  Companies conduct investigations, but often times, the circumstances get quashed or the company trust that the employee will be cynical and eventually quit.

If the employee is a victim of sexual harassment, they can and should follow whatever protocol they have within the company just to establish they’ve followed the written protocols of the employee handbook.

Ask for help; find someone who will intervene on your behalf.

As a Human Resource Consultant, we investigate these situations, promptly.  Taking statements from each party, listening to witnesses and documenting the findings.  Once this is done we advise the Business owner on what action needs to be taken or help them to take appropriate action.

One thing you can do to be prepared is to conduct sexual harassment training and have a written policy which all employees must sign off to adhere too.  Do you have more questions, need an investigation done, or want to train your employees and supervisors?  Dube Consulting is here to help.



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