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How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment in the workplace has become a very present problem, with over 10,000 lawsuits filed in FY 20-21. Workplace sexual harassment has become a significant issue in recent years regardless of the job, from retail store employees to movie stars, no person or gender is immune from workplace harassment.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment in the workplace is rampant. It doesn't even have to involve the person being harassed. Rather, anyone affected by the harassment can legitimately file a claim.

Depending on the size of the employer, damages can be sought for several hundreds of thousands of dollars in the name of lost wages, pain and suffering, and reckless indifference among a litany of other reasons.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace - Employer Responsibilities

The employer of both parties will be liable for the employee's actions.

It is the employer's job to ensure that all new employees complete approved EEOC training. A signed acknowledgment from both the employee and their supervisor is important.

Can't They Ignore It?

While workplace training can be dull, the evidence of each employee's signature cannot. If the language on the sign-in sheet is clear and represents an acknowledgment of the employees' understanding, all is clear.

It is the employer's job to ensure that all new employees complete approved EEOC training. A signed acknowledgment from both the employee and their supervisor is important.

What Constitutes Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Let's take a quick look at some common scenarios which may constitute sexual harassment in the workplace. This is not an exhaustive list, but we will dive into each to explain why EEOC training may have helped prevent the issue. Many common factors can be applied to different individual circumstances.

  • Inappropriate physical touching
  • Inappropriate innuendo
  • Unwanted suggestive speech
  • Inappropriate jokes
  • Inappropriate displays or decorations in a public workspace
  • Directly inappropriate speech
  • Commenting on another coworker's appearance
  • Suggesting a "quid pro quo" relationship

Inappropriate Physical Touching

This one goes without saying. If an employee is physically touched by another employee in an offensive or unwelcome manner, it's a problem.

Inappropriate Innuendo

Regardless if it is in jest, inappropriate innuendo is considered harassment. If someone feels uncomfortable at work, a meeting or further EEOC training may help. Employees with odd senses of personality can accidentally fall victim to this.

Even the most innocent class clown can fall victim to a sexual harassment claim without the proper training.

Unwanted Suggestive Speech

This can be a tough one. Employees from an older generation may not understand where to draw the line. They may use words like "sweetheart," "babe," or "darling," which can offend someone from a younger generation.

Inappropriate Jokes

We all love a good joke around the water cooler. Or do we? The workplace needs to remain as professional a space as possible, and we're not talking about knock-knock jokes.

If someone hears a witty little quip that offends them, both the joker and the employer are accountable for sexual harassment.

Directly Inappropriate Speech

There is no gray area on this offense. There is no gray area on this offense. Inappropriate speech should be an immediately fireable offense depending on the severity.

Inappropriate Displays and Decorations in a Public Workspace

Gone are the days of the swimsuit model calendar. In fact, it seems like that should go without saying today. Again, there is an older generation of folks in the workforce who still think it's copacetic to pin the latest chicken-wing-lady-in-a-swimsuit calendar on their cubicle.

Commenting on a Coworker's Appearance

While it may seem like a polite gesture to comment on a coworker's appearance, it can often lead to some uncomfortable feelings in the workplace. Distractions like this not only detract from employee morale, they also have the potential to suck the life out of the team's productivity and motivation for the immediate future.

Suggesting a "Quid Pro Quo" Relationship

Maybe the single most egregious form of workplace harassment, "quid pro quo" is a Latin term for "this for that." 

It's safe to say that we all know what that means in layman's terms. If someone in authority tells a subordinate that they will give them a raise, promotion, or other rewards in return for sexual or personal favors, it's considered quid pro quo.

This extends to every position in America. Employers do it, professors do it...really anyone with a modicum of power to wield has the opportunity to offer quid pro quo.

The Simple Importance of EEOC Training

It shouldn't be too tough to understand. Your employees should be trained on sexual harassment in the workplace on a quarterly basis so it is always fresh in the front of their minds. Not only does it give you plausible deniability, but it can also drastically reduce claims if your staff has been paying attention.

How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

It's understandable that a supervisor can't be in every area of a job site at all times. It also stands to reason that employees can have worries about reporting workplace harassment.

If you are an employer, it is vital for you to require all new hires to attend workplace training in an effort to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace.

This will remove any plausible deniability on the employee's part and protect your organization from lawsuits. It also protects the victim because there is signed proof that any possible perpetrator acknowledged their wrongdoing beforehand.

If you found this article informative, please feel free to browse our workplace-related news and advice.



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