Harassment in the Workplace
Monday, 10 October 2016
by Staff, Spaulding Law
• Quid Pro Quo: Deals directly with the consequences of the choice of an employee when they accept or reject unwelcome conduct. For example, a man does not receive a deserved promotion because he refused his boss’ sexual advances.
• Hostile Work Environment: A reasonable person would find the atmosphere of the workplace to be intimidating, offensive, or hostile. Some examples of this behavior might include the following:
o Offensive jokes
o Unnecessary or inappropriate touching
o Sexually suggestive or racially insensitive pictures
o Crude or derogatory language
Sometimes co-workers share something they believe is “all in good fun” and somebody is offended. The behavior may not have been intended to intimidate or offend their co-worker, but offense is the result. Not every offense will require discipline, but companies should be sure to take some sort of action when the harassment is unlawful. Harassment becomes unlawful when it is a condition of employment or the behavior is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. Pervasive harassment includes an ongoing series of actions. One act on its own might not be enough to be considered harassment, but it would be considered harassment if a series of similar actions show a pattern of hostility. Severe harassment only requires one act on its own that clearly shows hostility to one of the protected classes mentioned above.
Policies and training are important because employers are liable for the harassment that happens in the workplace and through work sponsored events. An employer can only avoid liability if they 1) reasonably tried to prevent or correct the behavior, and 2) the employee unreasonably refuses to accept any of the preventative or corrective solutions provided by the company. Contact an expert in employment law to help you create or review your company’s current harassment policies. An expert can also help provide the best advice for dealing with a harassment situation that has already occurred.
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