24 May Is Your Business Ready to Handle Employee Harassment?
Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a new issue. Thankfully, employees are now empowered to speak out, and employers understand that sexual harassment training protects everyone, not just your employees but anyone who does business with your company.
With the rise in sexual harassment complaints and the coverage in the media, training is a reliable way to address sexual harassment on the job. Regardless of whether sexual harassment training is legally required in your state, its benefits include compliance with federal, state, and local laws. It also mitigates your risk and educates your employees.
History Leads to Hope
Title VII within the Civil Rights Act of 1964 laid the groundwork for establishing federal sexual harassment laws and eventually made sexual harassment illegal in the workplace. The Act made it unlawful to discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Although both men and women were covered, it was initially intended to protect women in the workplace.
Although sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination, it took many years for U.S. courts and legislation to define it and create laws that would protect workers. The first sexual harassment cases were not brought until the mid-1970s, and the U.S. Supreme Court did not hear a sexual harassment case until the 1980s.
Barnes v. Train (1974) is commonly viewed as the first sexual harassment case in America, even though “sexual harassment” was not used. Barnes was a payroll clerk who worked for the EPA. She claimed that her job was eliminated because she rejected her supervisor’s advances. The case was initially dismissed but won on appeal in 1977. Barnes was able to win because another case set a precedent in 1976 with Williams v. Saxbe. Williams worked at the U.S. Department of Justice. She won her case, which established that quid pro quo1 sexual harassment constitutes sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 2
Other cases followed, and once they reached the point where decisions and issues were identified in the public eye, the wheels were set in motion for establishing the foundation for how sexual harassment in the workplace is currently interpreted.
Today, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal discrimination laws, defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”
Help with Harassment
Sexual harassment represents a significant liability for employers if employees encounter sexual harassment in their workplace. Large lawsuits and poor publicity can follow these claims and cause significant financial problems for your company.
As a result, it’s more important than ever for you to provide sexual harassment training to your employees and supervisors. Training helps employees understand what constitutes sexual harassment, relevant laws governing sexual harassment in their area, and company policies about sexual harassment. You provide this training to help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and help supervisors document and investigate any arising claims.
Reach out to us with any questions and inquiries about training.