of women say they experience
“unwanted sexual attention,
sexual coercion, sexually crude
conduct, or sexist comments”
in the workplace.
of employees who experience
harassment never file a formal
complaint; 75% never complain
to their employers either.
Even if no one complains, you can still get in trouble.
Think that no
That could be a
victims have no legal
obligation to alert
their employers to the
problem. If management has witnessed
harassment or a
hostile work environment and failed to
take action, the
company can be
Lack of intent doesn’t matter.
“You hear from people
that they didn’t intend to
offend anyone, were only
joking, and when they put
their arm around someone, it wasn’t meant to be
sexual,” says David Lewis,
CEO of HR consultancy
almost irrelevant. The
victim’s viewpoint matters
most.” Employees have the
right not to be touched at
work, or addressed in
a diminutive way or hear
jokes about the tightness
of their clothing, Lewis
says. “People put way too
much emphasis on intent
rather than perception.”
TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION
The longer you wait to investigate, the greater the likelihood a frustrated
accuser will look elsewhere for help. He or she might contact an attorney, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or an equivalent
state agency. If the accuser does contact the EEOC, you can usually
expect to spend a lot of time and money dealing with attorneys. “They
may not say who complained. They may just contact you and announce
they’re doing a general audit,” says David Lewis of OperationsInc. “And
they have a lot of latitude.” If, say, the EEOC finds other employee issues
such as wage unfairness or discriminatory hiring, it can pursue these as
well. This is why you should deal with harassment claims swiftly and
efficiently—before the EEOC gets involved. “Besides protecting employees, it saves time and money,” says Russ Brinson of Sodoma Law.
PROTEC T THE ACCUSER
Other workers may be tempted to seek revenge, especially if the alleged
harasser is well-liked. Even before there’s an issue, says Brinson, “every-
one must know that they can’t retaliate.” You need to figure out how to
separate the accused and the accuser without it seeming like retaliation.
The best solution may be for them to work from home or get paid leave.
SEEK OTHER VICTIMS
Sexual harassment is rarely a one-time thing. Use due diligence
to confirm there are no other victims or witnesses among people the
accused has worked or traveled with. “Generally, when you go to
other people, they say, ‘Oh, he said this to me, too.’ It’s easier to come
forward,” Brinson says.
BE WILLING TO TERMINATE THE PERPETRATOR
Some employers try to avoid firing a key employee by sending the
person to counseling. But if the victim considers your response
inadequate, he or she might still seek redress. Sanford Rose Associates’ John Malloy says that after he fired an abusive employee at the
factory he once owned, “there were no issues for several years.”
Is one of your workers being accused of sexual harassment or misconduct? These guidelines can help you manage a difficult issue.
was collected by the EEOC
from offending firms in 2015 for
workers alleging harassment.
Portion of men who believe
workplace harassment goes
Portion of men who go
unpunished, according to
women who have reported
who said the
Segment who said they
were subject to unwanted
advances at work.
Segment of women
polled who reported
Source: ABC News/The Washington Post
Source: 2016 EEOC Select Task
Force on the Study of Harassment
in the Workplace