Business Owners: What You Can Do About Workplace Harassment
With the recent rash of harassment revelations in the media, companies are taking their anti-harassment policies more seriously than ever. And it’s not just the Weinstein Company and Fox that are looking at their exposure to lawsuits. If you are the owner of a business – any business with employees – you need to learn everything there is to know about workplace harassment, and how to 1) prevent it and 2) handle it if it does occur.
Let’s first get clear on the definition of workplace harassment:
Harassment under federal law is “unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including gender identity and pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, sexual orientation, or parental status.”
Two common types of harassment are
- Quid Pro Quo (“This for That”). In quid pro quo harassment, enduring the offensive conduct becomes condition of continued employment. Examples:
- Denying employment or a promotion for failure to perform sexual acts or participate in religious activities.
- Giving preferential treatment in exchange for sexual cooperation or joining a religion.
- Hostile Work Environment. Here, the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Some more considerations:
- A “hostile environment” may be created by the unwelcome conduct of supervisors, co-workers, customers, contractors, or anyone else with whom the victim interacts on the job.
- Harassment occurs when this conduct renders the workplace atmosphere intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
- Factors to consider include but are not limited to the frequency and severity of alleged harassment, whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, and whether it unreasonably interferes with work.
- Behaviors contributing to an unlawful hostile environment may include but are not limited to discussing sexual activities, unnecessary touching, displaying sexually suggestive or racia