Employers have an obligation to provide a work environment free of sexual harassment. When the supervisor does the harassing, liability is pretty clear.
But when a co-worker makes himself a nuisance (or worse), employers do have a defense. A robust anti-harassment policy, a clear reporting method and swift and sure action will cut liability in almost all cases.
But what if the policy isn’t enforced or a supervisor learns about the harassment but ignores the problem and doesn’t take action? Then all bets are off.
Recent case: Sheila started working for New York City as a caseworker and climbed the career ladder to become a supervisor. When a new employee was assigned to her, it was clear from the beginning that the two would be at odds. The man almost immediately told Sheila that he wouldn’t take direction from a woman.
Plus, there were rumors that the new employee had been reinstated after having previously been discharged for “bothering a female.” Sheila complained about the new subordinate to her boss, who allegedly told her to just keep track of his time and otherwise leave him alone.
It quickly became apparent that the man was more than a mere sexist. He spent considerable time staring at several female employees in the office. Even more disturbing, he sometimes held a blanket over his lap while “doing something with his hands.” Then he would excuse himself to go to the bathroom, where co-workers said they could hear him groaning. They surmised he was masturbating.
Sheila reported all this to her supervisor many times.
The last straw came when the man grabbed several women and walked into a cubicle, where he dropped his pants and proceeded to masturbate in full view of co-workers. Several women observed him do so. Only then was he removed from the premises.
Sheila sued, alleging she had been forced to work in a sexually hostile work environment, and that the city had done nothing about it despite her frequent complaints.
The city countered that it had a sexual harassment policy, encouraged employees to complain and required all managers to report any sexual harassment up the chain of command.
That wasn’t good enough for the court, which ordered a trial. It said policies don’t protect employers from liability if the policies aren’t enforced. In this case, it was clear that Sheila’s supervisor had ignored his obligation, so the city’s policy was meaningless. (Brown v. City of New York, et al., No. 11-CIV-2915, SD NY, 2013)
Final note: Harassers almost never stop unless someone makes them. And their behavior sometimes escalates from comments to touching to serious sexual assault. Don’t let that happen at your workplace.
What could the city have done in this case? It should have provided training encouraging all employees to bypass their immediate supervisor if they thought their initial complaint was going nowhere.
Finally, if the man had indeed been previously disciplined for harassing a woman in another office, he should have been carefully supervised in his new setting.
Like what you've read? ...Republish it and share great business tips!
Attention: Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, Media, Webmasters and more...
We believe great content should be read and passed around. After all, knowledge IS power. And good business can become great with the right information at their fingertips. If you'd like to share any of the insightful articles on BusinessManagementDaily.com, you may republish or syndicate it without charge.
The only thing we ask is that you keep the article exactly as it was written and formatted. You also need to include an attribution statement and link to the article.
" This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/36313/anti-harassment-policy-training-are-meaningless-if-supervisors-decide-to-ignore-them "