Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

As the workforce has become more and more diverse, companies have had to put more emphasis on tolerance, on the ability of employees to work together with respect toward coworkers.

The ability to work together is necessary for the smooth functioning of the organization and also because of legal guidelines. Companies need to take diversity training seriously and the leadership needs to emphasize tolerance to ensure that they do not run afoul of the law.

A case in point is the lawsuit that was brought against a manufacturing firm by a woman who claimed that she was subjected to prolonged sexual harassment. The harassment involved vulgar language and other sexually suggestive actions.

However, the company ignored the woman’s complaints and never did any type of investigation. Company managers took the attitude that she was working in a mill-type environment, where this kind of behavior should just be expected, and that if it bothered her, she should work someplace else. To their way of thinking, the harassment was all in good fun, like joking around.

But the court thought differently, and awarded the woman $25,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages.

The company claimed that it had a sexual harassment policy and trained its employees about harassment. Company officials said they made a good faith effort to comply with the law. But witnesses at the trial said they could not recall any harassment training at the company and that the policy was not enforced. Moreover, the HR manager, who had worked at the company for more than 20 years, said he never questioned a foreman about not reporting an incident of sexual harassment. After hearing all of this evidence, the court ruled in favor of the woman.

All of this highlights the need to review and update harassment policies on a regular basis, according to Jon Hyman, an employment law attorney.  Companies should train employees about sexual harassment each year – not only when an incident occurs, Hyman says.. The policies should be enforced consistently throughout the entire company, and employees who don’t follow them should be disciplined.

In the end, this is also a leadership issue, because if the leadership does not take these policies seriously, the employees won’t either. There is no guarantee that a company won’t get sued for sexual harassment, but if the company has really made a good faith effort to educate employees about it and enforce policies on it, the company stands the best chance of defending itself effectively in court.

When your company needs temporary, temporary-to-hire or direct-hire workers in the Anchorage area, send a message to the Opti Staffing Group. We would love to discuss how we can help your company with its contingent staffing needs.

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