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IS YOUR ORGANIZATION PREPARED TO COMBAT SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUITS?
Jamie Charter May 26, 2006 — 1,850 views
Employers need to be certain they are providing a comprehensive program that meets all Federal expectations, including preventive education for your employees. Such a program can include:
* Supervisor and management training.
* Prevention compliance to meet Federal recommendations (EEOC) and state regulations.
* Interactive discussions regarding less-than-obvious harassment.
* Presentation of clear on-the-job rules for both male and female employees.
* How to prevent sexual harassment.
* Investigation of employee complaints of harassment.
* Take all issues brought to your attention seriously, no matter how seemingly insignificant they appear. *Zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment!
* Information and practical guidance regarding the federal and state statutory provisions concerning the prohibition against and the prevention of sexual harassment.
* Information about the correction of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment in employment.
* Practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission mandates that employers with 15 or more employees provide training and ensure that sound policies are in place.
Sexual harassment is defined by the EEOC as a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This pertains to state and local governments, and applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.
Some of the factors that constitute sexual harassment include: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature 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.
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."
The world's largest law firm must pay up for creating a sexually hostile work environment. Former secretary Rena Weeks accused partner Martin Greenstein and Baker & McKenzie of creating a hostile work environment and failing to take steps to prevent Greenstein's misconduct. The court found that at the time Weeks was hired, Baker & McKenzie and its relevant managing agents were aware that Greenstein was likely to create such a hostile environment. A series of women had already complained to supervisors that Greenstein harassed them; however, the firm took no action and did not even enter the complaints in his personnel file. The firm actually transferred several of the complainants and fired one of them. If a lower-level employee complained, the firm ignored or dismissed the complaint.
What can you, as an employer do?
Take immediate measures to enhance your education on how to use appropriate discipline to discourage sexual harassment in your workplace and how to properly investigate and remedy employee complaints of sexual harassment.
In addition, it is important to ensure your workplace training encompasses other forms of discrimination, in addition to sexual harassment prevention programs. Offer training that is more elaborate and education regarding workplace harassment or other forms of unlawful discrimination in order to meet the obligations to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent and correct harassment and discrimination.
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. Communicate your ZERO TOLERANCE policy!
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.