Sexual Harassment – Is it just a “Hot News Topic”?

See the EEOC Sexual Harassment description below the article

Being a female with a long career, Susan experienced explicit and subtle forms of sexual harassment in the work place. There were times when she simply put the aggressor in their place, times she physically responded to actual physical assaults and one time when it was a particularly nasty verbal harassment she complained.

Susan was employed by a Not for Profit with a board of directors and was harassed by 2 or more board members each month when she gave her mandatory board presentation. Susan’s boss was aware and they were strategic keeping the presentations brief. Susan would enter at the time of her presentation and leave immediately. These “adult” business men who were former state legislators (translation law makers) behaved like boys and fought over who would come out to invite Susan to enter the meeting. There were comments under their breath, looks that made Susan want to run home and shower (giggling by the other members) and general bad behavior that no “employee” should ever be expected to endure. The management company representative was in attendance and although there was no denying the disturbance caused by these people, nothing was done to stop it. After one annual meeting, an open forum where others were invited, a male board member stated as Susan approached the microphone, “Wouldn’t you like to have a piece of that”? The lone female board member asked if Susan to drive her back to the office which Susan did. The board member offered her assistance if needed. Following that conversation, Susan reached out to the EEOC, filed a complaint and a lawsuit. The immediate response from the board and the management company was to attack Susan and her boss who had supported Susan by accusing them of having an affair and conspiring on the complaint. To keep his job, Susan’s boss was relocated from Texas to New Jersey.  By the time the lawsuit reached depositions the female board member who offered support had passed away and the fine upstanding “wealthy white male” board members lied under oath. The judge who was acquainted with these men and their attorney dismissed the case and ordered Susan to pay the board’s court cost. Ironically this was the first employer Susan worked for where employees went through “Sexual Harassment” training, ordered by the board during their harassment of Susan.

We would like to think in a professional world 23 years later this would not happen but it does every day. It is always in the news either locally or nationally. Susan is taken by surprise when it happens to her.

Employers your sales team and other employees can be harassed by customers or vendors, still the company’s responsibility. It occurs with both male and female employees. Train, train and re-train all employees.

Sexual Harassment

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

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