Last year a federal jury awarded the largest verdict for a single plaintiff claiming sexual harassment - $125 million in punitive damages and $42.7 million for lost wages and mental anguish. This stunning, $168 million dollar verdict against Mercy General Hospital for alleged sexual harassment is just the tip of the iceberg as the EEOC has vowed increased enforcement for 2013.
Human resource professionals know all about sexual harassment prevention. Unfortunately, HR isn’t usually involved in sexual harassment situations until they’re problematic. This is why training is critical to protecting your organization. The goal of sexual harassment training is to prevent harassment and educate employees on how to handle situations as they arise.
HR relies on management and supervisors to prevent and report inappropriate acts. Are you confident they know how to recognize sexual harassment and will handle it appropriately? At a minimum, all supervisors and managers should be able to correctly answer these questions:
It’s only sexual harassment if the person doesn’t like it.
False: While two people might enjoy a dirty joke, if others hear it, it could be sexual harassment.
Using foul language, even occasionally, is always sexual harassment.
False: While unprofessional, context, frequency, and the words themselves must be taken into account.
You don't need to stop a flirty vendor or contractor from harassing – they don’t work for you.
False: You are required to maintain a harassment-free workplace - whoever the harasser is, it must be stopped.
It’s important to ignore a person who filed a sexual harassment complaint.
False: Avoiding someone who has filed a complaint may be considered retaliation – a form of discrimination.
If they don’t tell you to stop, it’s not sexual harassment.
False: A person might be afraid to confront their harasser, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t sexual harassment.
It is ok to discuss a sexual harassment claim with other co-workers.
False: A harassment claim should only be discussed with the individuals directly involved. There should be absolutely no comments about employee’s pending compliant.
You can have employees distance themselves from someone who files a complaint.
False: This could be considered retaliation, which could lead to a lawsuit even if the original claim was found to not have merit.
Would all of your managers and supervisors get a perfect score? If not, it’s time to train them to recognize and prevent sexual harassment.
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