Just like the movie, Groundhog Day, we hear the same story of sexual harassment again and again. It feels like each time we turn on the news or open twitter, some new actor, politician, or businessman has been accused of sexual harassment.
We hear how these offenders sometimes deny the behavior or sometimes offer an apology. We also hear how training isn’t working. What we don’t hear is how to resolve it. We have identified six options for resolving sexual harassment.
The Talking with your supervisor or another person in management option, is when an employee alleges that he or she received unwelcome behavior, including behavior prohibited by the employer’s anti-harassment or other related policies, such as use of electronic information or retaliation. If the alleged behavior is sexual, violates protected characteristics, relates to sexual orientation and or gender identity harassment, management is expected to notify HR. HR is responsible for conducting an investigation to determine if the alleged behavior occurred.
The HR conducts an investigation option occurs after HR is made aware of behavior prohibited by anti-harassment or retaliation policies. The investigation determines if the alleged behavior occurred, and if it did, the employer is responsible for taking action to stop it, prevent it from occurring again and for preventing retaliation.
The corrective action option occurs after HR’s investigation determines that an employee violated one or more of the employer’s policies. To ensure that consistent corrective action occurs across the organization HR usually suggests the appropriate discipline. But it is the supervisor or manager who typically makes the final decision and administers the corrective action.
The talk with an Outside Agency option is in addition to internal resolution options. Employees may also contact an outside agency for assistance in stopping behavior prohibited by their employer’s harassment, retaliation and discrimination policies.
NOTE: EEOC asks employees who file a complaint with them if they shared the allegation(s) with their employer and did they give them an opportunity to investigate and resolve it?
If you are a recipient of sexual harassment or if you see it taking place in your workplace, it’s time to resolve it and wake up from your own Groundhog day.
Tips for a Harassment free Office Holiday Party
Your holiday party is right around the corner. With sexual harassment cases covering the headlines this year, do you:
If you chose answer #1, you may be putting yourself and your organization at risk. While headlines are about actors and politicians, sexual harassment is a real concern in the everyday workplace. According to Rodney Klein, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the commission is keeping an eye on the national dialogue regarding sexual harassment. “It's difficult to assess right now if we're seeing much of an increase in the sexual harassment complaints that we take, but that's probably something that we will be looking at within the next six months to a year to see if we notice an increase in those charges,” Klein said.
If you chose # 2, it may be difficult to remember, but a company holiday party is a company sponsored event. That means, the policies that apply in your organization, still apply at a party. If you aren’t sure what those policies are, now may be a great time to read your code of conduct.
If you chose # 3, we have some tips to avoid being in the spotlight Monday morning as the harasser or the victim while still having a good time.
Remember, the office party is an extension of your workplace. While the lights may be dimmer, the music louder and the alcohol flowing, your organization’s policy against harassment still applies. If you have any questions about what is and is not appropriate, please check with your Human Resources department.
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Not a legal term, subtle sexual harassment refers to behaviors including non-sexual touching, comments about appearance and personal questions that are not prohibited by sexual harassment laws, court cases or an employer’s anti-harassment policy unless that behavior is unwelcome to the recipient.
Though the unwelcome behavior is subtle, it is still harmful. Especially when the behavior becomes more frequent and personal in nature. Its impacts include discomfort, embarrassment, stress, anger, abruptness with the harasser, they feel stalked and take deliberate actions to avoid the harasser (e.g., avoiding work areas, changing work schedule, and not staying late or arriving early).
A simple way to determine this is to look at the intent vs. impact of behavior. Intent vs. Impact asks people to NOT focus on the intention or reasons for their actions but instead to think about and be aware of the impact of those actions on others.
For instance, this past weekend, an interview was aired showing Adam Sandler touching Claire Foy’s knee. Was that, in and of itself, subtle sexual harassment? According to Mr. Sandler’s spokesman, it was intended to be a “friendly gesture”. Ms. Foy’s spokesperson said, “We don't believe anything was intended by Adam's gesture and it has caused no offence to Claire." (source - http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/claire-foy-adam-sandler-graham-norton-touch-knee-bbc-no-offence-a8026731.html)
What was the impact? In this case, the impact was not deemed harmful, but it’s easy to see how it could have been.
Subtle sexual harassment is not easy to decipher and this is a good example. Although intentions may be harmless, it’s the impact of said behavior that really matters.
What if your co-worker isn’t famous? There are also hundreds of blatant and subtle sexual harassment situations occurring every week in workplaces where recipients don’t complain and that are not reported in national news or written about on Internet sites. What happens to these victims?
In cases of repeated harassment and because the recipient can no longer ignore or tolerate the harasser’s behavior, she or he will confront the harasser, reluctantly tell a supervisor or HR, transfer, or even quit. When harassed employees transfer or quit they rarely tell anyone why. Partly because leaving is less anxiety-provoking or scary than confronting the harasser or complaining. This is one of the hidden costs of harassment—supervisors and employers are losing good employees and their knowledge and talent.
Women and men often perceive differently where the line is drawn between welcome and unwelcome comments about appearance and social invitations at work. Examples include non-sexual touching, hugs, and comments about appearance, personal questions, and asking for a date. Though the unwelcome behavior may be more subtle than those alleged in TV news or that we read about online or in newspapers, they are still harmful. Their impacts include discomfort, embarrassment, anxiousness, stress, anger, and feeling stalked. Sometimes the harassed employee will take deliberate actions to avoid the harasser by avoiding work areas, changing work schedule, and not staying late or arriving early.
What can you do if this is happening in your workplace? We have identified a THREE STEP PROCESS to determine if the behavior is harassment.
The Three-Step Process is an objective method for analyzing a behavior to determine whether it has crossed the line and become unwelcome, when the recipient of the behavior has not said, “Stop” or “That is unwelcome.”
The first step is to objectively describe the behavior.
Example – Bill told Denise she was “looking beautiful today.”
Step two is to determine if the behavior is welcome. If behavior is welcome, the person receiving the behavior will equally initiate and participate in the same behavior.
Example - Denise did not comment on Bill’s appearance.
Step three determines if that unwelcome behavior is prohibited by the anti-harassment policy.
You do that by answering the question, “Was the unwelcome behavior directed at the person because of his or her gender?” If the answer is yes, then the behavior is prohibited by the anti-harassment policy. If it is not, it still is probably unwelcome and should stop.
The Three-Step Process, like any behavior assessment model or management technique has exceptions. But it does provide a fairly objective method for recognizing subtle sexual harassment when no one has said, “Stop.”
If you are in a similar situation, talk with your supervisor or another person in management or HR for assistance and guidance on your options for stopping unwelcome behavior.
If you are a supervisor and know about the situation, don’t ignore it!
Perhaps by addressing subtle sexual harassment when it is occurring, we can prevent and stop more blatant sexual harassment.
For more information about our courses and how we are working to prevent workplace harassment and other misconduct please visit www.mycalearning.com.