Sexual Harassment Laws and Responsibilities

Whenever you talk about the sexual harassment laws you must consider what the responsibilities of the employee and the employer are.

An organization may have a defense against a claim of sexual harassment if it can show the following ...

The organization can establish that they took reasonable steps to prevent and immediately correct any sexually harassing behavior, and ...

The employee affected by the harassment did not take advantage of any policy or corrective opportunities provided by the organization to avoid harm or exposure.

The organizations responsibilities are...

The responsibility generally lies with the employee to report any harassing behavior to the organization and to follow the organizations policies.

The organizations responsibilities are to ensure the employees are educated on the policy and once reported or known conduct an immediate and thorough investigation.

Remember organizations may be liable for sexual harassment when the harasser is a supervisor and this includes both quid pro quo sexual harassment and, hostile work environment harassment. Also, they may be liable if the organization knew or should have known that the harassment was taking place.

The definition can be a difficult one and complex. Be sure you know it and have a policy for it.

The most common element and/or question to know is the actions welcomed?

In most cases as a supervisor, regardless of good leadership skills or not, you can't be sure. Therefore, if you are aware that something may be going on it is wise as a supervisor to ask questions of those that are involved.

As leadership is sometimes placed in situations where they must figure out what is going on and it can be embarrassing for all those involved you still must ask the questions.

Kind of like when an employee needs to be told to take a shower.

The harassment laws are clear and can cost your organization tons of money if you act too late, so take a proactive approach.

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