Not so long ago, sexual harassment simply wasn’t discussed. This was back in the days before Clarence Thomas’s tumultuous Senate confirmation hearings, before the U.S. military’s high-profile sexual harassment scandals.
In the mid-90s, those front-page stories led to awkward conversations around the water coolers in offices across the country. But the national discussion led to a sea change in the work culture. In June, we presented the reasons businesses should care about sexual harassment. In 2013, businesses large and small have to make sure all employees are trained about inappropriate workplace conduct. They must institute zero-tolerance policies. They must give employees clearly-defined complaint processes with a predetermined series of remedial steps to be taken if a complaint is found to be valid.
Harassment is an ongoing problem whenever someone has power over someone else and chooses to abuse their place in the hierarchy. The short-term damage includes an angry employee who doesn’t feel safe at work. Productivity will drop off. Absences will increase. Panic and depression are also common. The employee will probably discuss the problem with other employees, leading to an overall decline in morale.
Both genders are affected by this kind of discrimination. However, women are the most common victims, particularly in low-wage jobs, jobs where the workforce is young (such as in restaurants) and jobs where the majority of manager-level positions are men. This doesn’t mean sexual harassment isn’t found in high-power business environments as well. Whether it’s waiting tables or in the corporate board room, women are intimidated sexually in retail, restaurants, business offices, schools and government institutions all over the country.
If you are an employee, do you know the proper channels for lodging a complaint of sexual harassment where you work? If you are an employer, have you made sure your employees got the training they need? Have you made sure your policies are crystal clear and that harassment doesn’t become an issue?
An employee with a complaint should first report the incident so the employer can take the necessary steps to deal with the situation. An employer is legally bound to stop the harassment. If no actions are taken, the employee should file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or equivalent state agency. Such claims must be done typically within 180 days of the last violation. The EEOC or other state agency may moderate a settlement or issue a right-to-sue letter, which paves the way to legal action.
If an employee who lodges a complaint is victimized further or retaliated against, he or she should seek the counsel of an experienced lawyer who specializes in sexual harassment.
The legal repercussions of harassment have destroyed some companies. Not having a workplace that actively strives to prevent sexual harassment will hurt a company if litigation becomes a prospect. Protect your employees and your company with convenient online training from 360training.com. The course introduces management staff to the differences between quid pro quo harassment and hostile workplace scenarios. It also shows the right way to go about investigating complaints to ensure a fair, ethical and compliant work environment for everyone.