What is Sexual harassment?
Sexual Harassment can be one of the most complicated issues facing employers today.
Preventing sexual harassment in the work place requires an understanding of both state and Federal law. Many large employers have already instituted policies and training programs to prevent sexual harassment in their work places.
However, with training or without training, there still can be a complaint of sexual harassment in a particular workplace. Sexual Harassment has civil and potentially criminal ramifications for all parties; as well as, the business.
If you are the victim, do not ignore the signs of sexual harassment, especially if the advances are coming from your supervisor and you feel that your job hangs on the balance. Seek legal counsel. The law provides you protection under these circumstances.
On the other hands, if you or your company are the victim of false accusations, you too need to obtain the advice of a knowledgeable attorney. A sexual harassment accusation can destroy your business. For the accused employee, the accusation can have severe repercussions also. It might damage their family life and certainly they may lose their job.
When an allegation of any type of sexual misconduct is made, one must urgently consult with a knowledgeable attorney.
Here is some guidance and some questions that should be considered when confronted with a complaint of sexual harassment.
First, let´s establish what Sexual Harassment is: “Sexual Harassment is defined as any unwanted physical, verbal or visual sexual advances, requests and/or demands for sexual favors, and other sexually oriented conduct which is offensive or objectionable to the recipient, including, but not limited to: epithets, derogatory or suggestive comments, slurs or gestures and offensive posters, cartoons, pictures, or drawings.”
1. Sexual Harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, either verbal or physical, requests or demands for favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
2. Sexual Harassment does not include occasional compliments of a socially acceptable in nature. It refers to unwelcome, offensive and lewd behavior.
3. A company must have a clearly stated policy and procedures for receiving and processing these types of complaints. If an employee believes they have been the recipient of sexually harassing behavior, the policy should require that it be immediately reported, in writing, to their supervisor. The policy must also address perceived harassment by a supervisor and a proscribed manner for reporting such.
4. If the initial complaint is made verbally, it must be followed up with a written complaint. Make sure to keep your employee’s and the identity of the person against whom the complaint has been made confidential. There must be no retaliation for making a complaint.
5. Company policy should clearly establish the number of days after a sexual harassment complaint is lodged, that an internal investigation should begin and how long it should take. Company policy should designate how the investigation will take place to establish the facts. The person in charge of the internal investigation must speak with all possible witnesses and the person named in the complaint. The company is responsible for protecting the anonymity of all involved at this stage, to the extent possible.
Of course, above and beyond company policy and safeguards, the law is there to protect all parties.
A Sexual Harassment complaint involves several parties, the victim, the person accused and the company. If the sexual harassment is extreme enough both local and federal law enforcement authorities will become involved. Any complaint in the work place implicates Federal Law and therefore, a lengthy and complicated process may ensue.
Each party needs independent, competent legal counsel.
We at Regan Law can provide you with experienced advice on this difficult area.
Remember: Do not ignore Sexual Harassment at the work place. Call us; we are here to help.