Would You Recognize Sexual Harassment in Your Office?
You run a tight ship, and a business that respects employees. You would never knowingly allow sexual harassment to happen in your business. But most companies that get into legal trouble for sexual harassment, get into that trouble, because they don’t recognize some forms of sexual harassment, when it happens.
Not all sexual harassment is physical. Not all involved unwanted touching. Many forms of sexual harassment are much more subtle, but are no less serious.
Have a Clear Policy
The first way that many businesses get into trouble with sexual harassment claims, is by simply not having a definite clear, sexual harassment policy, for aggrieved employees to follow.
Your business should have a designated individual (or multiple ones) for employees to report harassment to. The company should have a written investigation process that is followed when a complaint is made. And when there is a problem that is found, something should be done about it.
These policies and procedures should be made known to your employees, so they know how to report harassment, and they know what happens when they do make a complaint.
Hostile Work Environment
Remember that even if an individual employee is not being specifically targeted, there can still be a work environment that is hostile, thus subjecting you to a lawsuit.
Allowing employees to joke about others, talk sexually about others in general, hang pictures of a sexual nature, or circulate emails or texts of a sexual nature, can get you into trouble by an employee who may feel that the work environment is tainted with sexual harassment.
Non Physical Harassment
Employees can do things that constitute harassment, without actually touching. Employees may physically block walkways or access to office areas from other employees. They may follow other employees, or give them visual “lookovers.”
They may make comments of a sexual nature, or physically hover over other employees, without actual touching. These are all non-physical things that can be easily overlooked by management—but which can get your business in trouble.
Dating and Relationships
Anytime someone asks someone else for a date, asks to meet somewhere, or makes any kind of verbal advance, it can open the door to a sexual harassment claim—especially if the person asking (who is rejected) is a supervisor, or holds a position of authority over the other employee.
There is an inherent imbalance of power in this kind of work dynamic, and employees may feel coerced and pressured to say “yes” to these advances against their will, simply to avoid repercussions from someone who has a higher position than they do.
Worse, rejection of these advances can lead to harassment—the employee may find that he or she is the target of jokes, harassment, or loss of opportunity in the company—all because he or she rejected the advances of a higher ranking employee.
Call the West Palm Beach business lawyers at Pike & Lustig today if you have any labor or employment law questions or problems.