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Cobra, bitten by lawsuit, pays for sexual harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Delray-based construction companies, Cobra Pavers & Engineering and Cobra Construction have agreed to pay $125,000 to settle sexual harassment charges brought by women who worked in the firms’ offices.

They said managers routinely regaled the staff with stories of their sexual exploits and made inappropriate sexual comments and derogatory remarks about women. The women also complained of unwelcome sexual touching.

The EEOC attempted to settle the case but wound up filing a lawsuit instead. Once the case was headed for trial, Cobra elected to settle.

Under the agreement, the company will update its sexual harassment policy and provide training to personnel at the Delray location. The Cobra companies must also provide regular reports to the EEOC detailing any sexual harassment complaints.

Note: Small groups of people working in close quarters often present problems for organizations—and such work environments can easily foster harassment. When the boss acts inappropriately, subordinates usually follow suit. Employees who are victimized by harassment often face pressure not to rock the boat.

This toxic workplace mentality can exact a costly toll on employee morale—and in legal judgments, court costs and attorneys’ fees.

If a worker does complain, she most likely only does so after enduring harassment for a long time. If the matter is investigated, it proceeds through a minefield of emotions where the victim is often blamed for causing the trouble. The company is loath to admit that its sexual harassment policy didn’t work, so it refuses to settle until there is no realistic alternative. By then, the employer has probably shelled out thousands in legal fees and driven up the settlement’s ultimate cost.

Prompt, fair investigations are the most cost-effective way to deal with sexual harassment. Making the harasser behave like an adult might just improve productivity as well.

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