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Treat all harassers equally, regardless of their sex

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

In what may be a sign of growing equality, more men are complaining about sexual harassment by their female co-workers and supervisors. Although female harassers may still be in the minority, that’s no reason to dismiss claims that men make.

Instead, develop a comprehensive sexual harassment policy that doesn’t differentiate between the sex of the harasser and victim. Make it an equal opportunity sexual harassment policy.

Recent case:
Cathie Faulkner worked for Tyco Electronics for several years until one of her male co-workers began complaining that she was harassing him. With another co-worker as a witness, the man said Faulkner grabbed his buttocks, asked him to get on the elevator to kiss her and tried to kiss him several times.

The HR office investigated and interviewed both men. After consulting with counsel—who advised that if a man had grabbed a woman’s buttocks, he would have been fired—HR terminated Faulkner.

After she was fired, Faulkner called the company harassment hotline, and said she, too, had been harassed—by the man who had witnessed her grab the co-worker’s buttocks. She also said that another man had harassed a woman and had not been fired.

When it was all over, three people were out of jobs: Faulkner, the man she said harassed her and the second man who had allegedly harassed a woman without being fired.

Then Faulkner sued, alleging sex discrimination because she had been fired while the men were not, at least initially. She said the men were fired later only to kill her discrimination lawsuit.

The court threw out her case. It said that everyone was held to the same standard. Faulkner’s harasser was fired after the company heard from her and investigated. The company reopened the earlier investigation against the second man after it got more evidence, and then it fired him. (Faulkner v. Tyco Electronics, No. 1:06-CV-00369, MD NC, 2008)

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