Don’t wait for employees to use the magic words—“sexual harassment”—to begin investigating a complaint. It’s up to you to decipher an employee’s protests to determine if they could fall into that legally dangerous harassment-complaint zone.
Case in point: BVI Precision Materials, a manufacturer in Allentown, has agreed to pay $80,000 to a former receptionist to settle an EEOC sexual-harassment and wrongful-firing lawsuit. The receptionist alleged that a senior salesman began making unwanted sexual advances after she joined the company. The salesman sent inappropriate e-mails, gave her women’s underwear and finally showed up uninvited at her home, resulting in police charges.
The receptionist complained to HR, but the company didn’t respond because the receptionist didn’t use the words “sexual harassment.”
Bottom line: A prompt, appropriate response might have spared BVI this costly settlement. Any allegation as serious as harassment should be acted on decisively.