3 Situations to Pay Attention To

Sexual Harassment: 3 Workplace Issues


Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment occurs when one employee makes continued, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature to another employee against his or her wishes. This issue is making the news a lot these days, it is imperative you know how to proceed when it occurs in your office. How well do you understand when to take action?


 Read on for important information on how to handle sexual harassment:


1: If an employee repeatedly makes sexual jokes near their cubicle, and no one involved in the conversation complains.

 It can be confusing when an employee makes an inappropriate joke, yet no one complains. Keep in mind that just because no one complained, does not mean they were not offended or uncomfortable. Inappropriate jokes and banter in a public space, such as a lunchroom or an open workspace is a problem that needs attention. If this happens repeatedly, and management fails to responds to complaints, the company could be held liable for a hostile work environment. Take charge and address the situation head on!


2: Does HR need to investigate if an employee complains that a coworker texted offensive photos to their personal device outside of work hours?

HR professionals often question if they can review conversations that aren’t on company property, or happened offsite. The short answer is yes – absolutely. Companies can be held accountable for their workers behavior regardless of where and when the potential harassment occurred. If the victim refuses to produce physical evidence of the offending texts, move forward by collecting statements from all parties involved.


3: Does a single complaint warrant an investigation by HR?

Harassment is legally defined by “pervasive” and continuous behavior, but every single complaint of harassment should be taken seriously. Conduct a thorough investigation by asking the person who complained to share details, and who else may be aware of the incident. If applicable, interview all witnesses. Once these steps are completed it is then appropriate to ask the accused person for their side of the story. The EEOC will make the final decision about whether the incident is pervasive, but do not wait until it’s pervasive to take action.


As an employer, demonstrating that you took appropriate action is crucial. In fact, demonstrating that you took immediate action and administering appropriate consequences, is also critical. Sexual harassment claims are never easy to navigate – when in doubt, always seek legal counsel.