Understand the Laws on Sexual Harassment

Laws on sexual harassment are administered by the federal agency called The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, if they have not crossed over to a criminal offense such as rape. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and that is why it is handled by this department. However, understand that sexual harassment is not limited to only females. My personal experiences with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have been very good ones. The down side was that it requires an enormous amount of work, but I chocked it up as the cost of doing business.

In order for the EEOC to become involved someone has to file a formal compliant, which is typically the victim. The laws on sexual harassment are a bit hard to truly understand completely, but it can be narrowed down to one major question. That question is ‘was the sexual conduct welcomed or not welcomed?” The difficult part is that it can be welcomed one day and then not welcomed the next! Go figure!

They have a fight and the next day one of them no longer welcomes the others sexual advancements.

As an example, you may have two employees dating and getting along very well. They have a fight and the next day one of them no longer welcomes the others sexual advancements. Once she/he makes their position clear by telling the other that their actions are no longer welcomed it begins to become sexual harassment. I used the word begins since in this type of situation one action by itself most likely would not meet the requirements of the laws of sexual harassment. It generally takes more than one, but the complicated part is that there is no definite number.

There are some exceptions to the laws on sexual harassment and that would be if a person who has power over someone else, like a supervisor, demands sex in exchange for a promotion or for them to keep their job! This is called ”Quid Pro Quo”, or ”This for That!” Someone in a leadership role has less room for violating the sexual harassment laws since they should know the law. Although I can’t speak for the EEOC my guess would be that in the above example the business would be found responsible for violating sexual harassment laws, even if this was the one and only time it had happened!

Did they know, or should they have known?

For business, the laws on sexual harassment generally boil down to one factor. That factor is “Did they know, or should they have known?” If you’re a business owner and an employee has been openly sexually harassing another employee it will be hard for you to deny that you didn’t know it was going on! My guess is that at least one employee is going to testify that they informed you of what was going on. People have a very hard time keeping secrets, especially a secret like this. The EEOC is going to place the burden on you to prove you didn’t know unless the facts are such that it would be obvious that you didn’t know.

The laws on sexual harassment place a lot of pressure on a business to take immediate action once they know that it is occurring. That could be simply telling someone to take down a rude joke or picture, to issuing discipline to an employee who is violating your sexual harassment policy. Notice I mentioned your sexual harassment policy. I hope that you have one! At a minimum I hope that you have the state and federally required posters posted in your workplace! If you don’t good luck when the EEOC contacts you!

Welcomed or not welcomed

There are some great online sites that offer some very good policies on everything including the laws on sexual harassment like U.S. Legal Forms. In my opinion it is one of the very first things you can do to protect your business against an unnecessary sexual harassment law suit. When it comes to preparing a defense for your business it starts long before anything ever happens. The next best defense is to make sure your employees know about your policy and how to report sexual harassment. Document this training! The final thing is to make sure you enforce your own policy.

To sum up the laws on sexual harassment remember these factors;

Welcomed or not welcomed

Known or should have known

State and Federally required posters

Company policy on sexual harassment

Training on your company policy

Enforcement of your policy

If the EEOC finds that you violated those laws and the victim is success with a law suit you could be out of business.

If you are a business owner or in a leadership role you better take the laws on sexual harassment very seriously. If the EEOC finds that you violated those laws and the victim is success with a law suit you could be out of business. Not many businesses are financially sound enough to withstand it. The settlements could be as high as several hundred thousand dollars to over one million. Take it seriously now, by taking the actions that I recommended. At a minimum consult with an employment labor law attorney before you are delivered a claim from the EEOC.

I hope this information has helped to provide you with the definition of sexual harassment. It is also important to remember that laws continue to evolve and change; therefore, stay in touch with some organization that will keep you continually informed of those changes.

May God Bless You!

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