Policy not enough: Stamp out co-worker harassment or prepare for court — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Policy not enough: Stamp out co-worker harassment or prepare for court

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Performance Reviews

It takes more than having a written policy to avoid liability for sexual harassment.

Employees frequently ignore a policy—and quickly forget it if they get the impression management just wrote the policy and then left it on the shelf to gather dust.

But if you back up your policy with regular training and reminders and quickly fix any harassment problems that come to your attention, chances are you won’t be liable unless the harasser was a supervisor and the employee suffered an adverse employment action, such as being fired or demoted.

Recent case: Robin Mire worked for a plumbing supply company as an accounts payable clerk. A rumor began circulating that she was having an affair with a co-worker. Suddenly, several male co-workers began commenting on her appearance, asked her if they could touch her breasts and told her—in front of customers—that her jeans “made her a__ look good.” One co-worker even grabbed her from behind.

Their comments and leering looks often left her in tears.

She complained to her supervisor, who responded by mentioning the company’s sexual harassment policy at the next staff meeting. Then Mire received a sexually suggestive call from a co-worker. Two days later, the company fired her for alleged poor performance.

Mire sued, alleging she had been forced to work in a sexually hostile work environment.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said the case should go to trial because there was evidence that the humiliation Mire had experienced was pervasive and the company’s efforts to stop it were ineffective. (Mire v. Texas Plumbing Supply, No. 07-20738, 5th Cir., 2008)

Final note: At the very least, the company should have started an investigation. Simply telling co-workers to stop isn’t enough.

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