13 Jan Some Links on Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment law can be complicated and because each incident is very fact specific it is not always so easy to know what harassment it and isn’t. Fortunately, unlike other areas of the law, both the federal government and state governments are pretty specific about their goal of prohibiting sexual harassment.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is charges with investigating and enforcing the federal laws against sexual harassment specifically and discrimination in general. Most of the law is under Title VII. The EEOC has a page for employers and small businesses which contains information on all the programs the EEOC manages. The Commission has a dedicated page for sexual harassment information.
In Maryland, the policy against sexual harassment is managed by the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights. The MCCR handles a discrimination in a number of areas, including housing, public accommodations, state contracts, but also employment.
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has training courses available available online for managers and small business owners. SHRM is the leading association for human resources training and can be very helpful for practical advice.
The National Federation of Independent Business has a presentation on the general subject of discrimination but that touches on sexual harassment. The pdf is here.
(True) Story Time
I was an enlisted sailor in the Navy at the time of the big Tailhook scandal. To say that the Navy was embarrassed by the incident goes without saying. A very large number of people, high ranking people, lost their jobs and should have. To me, though, the thing I remember most was the mandatory training stand down we had early in 1992. Although the Navy had an anti-harassment policy on the books, it was clear that it was not well known or followed. During the training stand down, the Navy reiterated a policy against harassment and everyone, from the Chief of Naval Operations to the lowest recruit in boot camp (and civilian employees also, I believe) had to go to this training. At the time, I was pretty offended since my parents (including my father, a Navy Chief Petty Officer) had done a pretty good job teaching my brother, sister, and me how to deal with people in a respectful manner. So at the time (I was in my early 20’s) I figured this was pretty silly since, after all it was a bunch of drunk officers who acted in appropriately.
But the training was serious if a tad elementary. Employers today should take anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training seriously. Regular training stand downs, where the entire company attends training on discrimination and sexual harassment will go a long way to preventing the dangerous and damaging behavior and, perhaps most importantly, providing a defense of sorts should a claim be brought. If it means spending an hour to four hours every six months to conduct training and reiterate policies and procedures, it is well worth the expense.
Business owners and their managers need to develop their skills for spotting, investigating and disciplining sexual harassment.
If you have any questions about harassment, please contact counsel or a human resources expert.