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SEXUAL HARASSMENT PREVENTION: WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO KNOW
Jamie Charter May 19, 2006 — 1,513 views
Sexual Harassment Prevention: This is the first in a series of informational articles on this important subject. Through this article series, we will discuss sexual harassment, what it is, what it is not, some strategies, and work toward instituting measures to ensure that the workplace is a safe and respectful environment.
National media coverage has made it more than apparent that sexual harassment in the workplace is an area of critical exposure for business owners and corporations alike. Federal guidelines through the EEOC recommend communication of harassment policies and proactive education of supervisors regarding company policies against harassment. Proper employee training can significantly minimize the risk of sexual harassment lawsuits.
Failure to provide such training can result in expensive legal consequences, employee dissatisfaction and decreased productivity in the workplace.
What is sexual Harassment?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment in the United States as follows:
Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
* Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or
* Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or
* Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:
* the victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
* The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, and a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
* The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
* Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
* The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.
What can complicate the issue is that what is considered sexual harassment to one person may not be considered harassment to another. It is completely subject to interpretation. Sexual harassment is in the eye of the beholder. Employers are advised to take appropriate and proactive measures to assure that sexual harassment problems are brought forward and eliminated. Employer policies must be in place to provide employees a complaint procedure to reduce the likelihood of lawsuits. What can you, as an employer do?
Take immediate measures to enhance your workplace educational programs and include information on:
*How to use appropriate discipline to discourage sexual harassment
*How to properly investigate and remedy employee complaints of sexual harassment.
Remember, providing only sexual harassment prevention training does not "discourage or relieve any employer from providing for longer, more frequent, or more elaborate training and education regarding workplace harassment or other forms of unlawful discrimination in order to meet its obligations to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination."
Therefore, it may be a prudent measure by employers to consider expanding the training program from the required two-hour format required by the states of California and Connecticut to encompass other types of discrimination in the workplace, such as age, race and disability.
Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace and employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. It is important to let your employees and supervisors know that sexual harassment and discrimination in any form has ZERO TOLERANCE in your workplace.
Jamie Charter, consultant, trainer and author, has been providing employment and litigation consulting services for 23 years through Charter and Company employment resource consultants in Soquel, California. Areas of specialization include development and implementation of disability management programs, case management, EEOC/FEHA/ADA consultation, return-to-work facilitation, CalPers job description services, job analyses, conducting training seminars for employer groups on sexual harassment prevention and discrimination and litigation /expert witness services in Forensics.