Posted by Tamara
A female employee asks a male coworker to go out with him. He says “no.” She asks him again. And again, and again. Although he said no the first time and continues to do so, she asks him out five times.
Is this sexual harassment? The answer is “yes.”
Many Tennessee employers have a mistaken notion of what constitutes sexual harassment. Like many people, they assume that sexual harassment involves a male supervisor promising a reward to a female worker if she complies with his sexual advances, or threatens her with losing her job if she does not comply.
Sexual harassment is broader than that, however, and employers who do not know this are at risk of paying some very hefty lawsuits.
The EEOC may bring a lawsuit on an employee’s behalf if the employee reported sexual harassment and the employer does nothing to stop it. Employers could find themselves paying millions of dollars worth of damages.
There are several useful facts for employers to know about sexual harassment.
First, it need not only involve a male supervisor and a female employee. It may involve two coworkers. It may involve harassment of a male by another male, or a female by another female.
EEOC statistics show that complaints by males of sexual harassment from females are increasing, as are complaints by male employees that they are facing harassment from male supervisors.
Second, sexual harassment does not just involve threats for non-compliance or promises of benefits for compliance. That is only one kind of sexual harassment, called “quid pro quo.”
What if an employee tells dirty jokes in the workplace? That can be sexual harassment. If an employee leers at another and says “You really look good in that shirt,” that, too may be sexual harassment.
Employers must protect workers from any source of sexual harassment, whether it is from a supervisor, a coworker, a vendor, and even a customer. The idea is that employees must be able to do their work without negative distractions from repeated sexual attentions.
Not only the federal government but many states outlaw workplace sexual harassment.
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