Not all flirting is sexual harassment, and occasional provocative talk doesn’t necessarily create a sexually hostile work environment. But watch out if things get so out of hand that a reasonable female employee would believe co-workers or supervisors see women as sex objects.
Recent case: Eugenia Nixon was an operating room nurse who complained frequently that one of the doctors and several fellow female nurses engaged in almost incessant sex talk at work. They commented on breast size and each other’s sex organs and talked about how they would meet after work for sex with the doctor.
Nixon sued. The employer argued that because other women participated in the sex talk, it couldn’t be harassment. The court disagreed. It said that any talk that makes women sex objects is potentially sexual harassment. (Nixon v. Majors, et al., No. 3:07-CV-413, ED NC, 2008)
- Base all decisions on legit business needs--and then be sure to document your reasoning
- Be ready to justify different punishment for like offenses
- When in doubt, print it out: Don't change policy via e-mail
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