Tag: work environment

What is Sexual Harassment?

We all know the term and we even hear the term thrown around facetiously from time to time.  But the entire working spectrum from owners to management to employees needs to understand what sexual harassment is and why it’s a problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

This definition seems to draw a fine line that, hopefully, none of us have to worry about crossing. But, there are a few misconceptions that don’t make the matter as black and white as it may initially sound.  A few rules that we should all know about are:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be either a woman or a man.
  • The victim of sexual harassment does not have to be of the opposite sex of the harasser.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone adversely affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome in order to constitute sexual harassment.

To prepare you and your organization proactively, make sure that you have clearly stated your policies on sexual harassment in the workplace.  Overstate it if you have to, just make sure to cover all the angles.

Don’t know if you’ve covered it all or if you need to be more specific? HRInsights can help… join our webinar to find out if you have everything in your sexual harassment policy that you need.


Politics, Sexual Harassment & a $100,000 Reminder to Business Owners

Regardless of who said this, who said that, the truth, the history and the outcome of the Herman Cain scandal in the daily news!  Politics again brings up the very serious topic of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Does your company have a well-communicated process to handle sexual harassment complaints?  If not, your business is potentially facing a costly liability.  Take the case of …

Sheriff v. Midwest Health Partners, P.C., 8th Circuit Court No. 09-3367, August 30, 2010

An employer’s failure to keep a female employee apprised of its response to her complaints of sexual harassment, and its further failure to follow through on remedial actions could lead a reasonable jury to find that the employer did not take the complaints seriously. Such failures form the basis of a recent decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which the Court denied an employer’s post-trial motion regarding a $100,000 jury verdict.

A Sexual Harassment  Policy should be stated clearly in company’s Employee Handbook.  And, there should be a signed document from each employee acknowledging that they have read AND understood the policy.  No excuses!

In the workplace, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual or sex-based conduct – such as unwanted touching, pressure for dates, or offensive remarks – that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment and interfere with the victim’s ability to perform her job.  Sexual harassment can also include conditioning an employment or educational opportunity on the victim’s submission to requests for sexual favors.”

Provide a work environment that fosters teamwork and where everyone can reach their full potential, and also be prepared to protect that environment!

Government Help? A Different Twist!

Occupational Safety & Health AdministrationLet’s face it, few small business owners rarely smile when confronted with the acronym OSHA.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conjure up scary thoughts for owners thinking unnecessary regulations and oversight into our businesses.  Various state regulation agencies offer similar ill feelings.

But, any successful enterprise does want a safe and healthy work environment where employees flourish.  There is no debate that the merits of a hard working and dedicated staff outweigh the problems with an organization that is unhappy and working against your goals.

There are many free services and benefits that the government offers small business entrepreneurs to help with organizational effectiveness.

  • OSHA provides free on-site consultations to help small and medium sized businesses identify risks in their workplace and give advice on compliance to OSHA standards.  These consultations are not enforcement visits.  In fact, OSHA consultants will not issue citations or report potential violations to enforcement staff.  Learn more here.
  • If your organization operates within the health care or construction industries, OSHA has developed specific modules and guidance that apply to your workplace.  Visit the Compliance Assistance Quick Start for the construction industry and the health care industry.  OSHA also provides a general industry module, which can be found here.
  • OSHA also provides advice and guidelines for organizations working with Hispanic employees.  Here you can find dictionaries, training opportunities, key OSHA publications in Spanish, and Spanish speaking workplace-safety videos.

We just thought it might be a good idea for you to be aware of the potential valuable insights available to you from organizations such as OSHA.  Explore the OSHA small business page for more ideas that may be helpful to your organization.

Ounce of HR prevention worth pound of legal cure

A quote known to all of us, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” manifests itself daily in routine parts of our lives.  In business, there are clearly times when practicing this “rule” can have enormous impacts on eliminating costs.

This is certainly true in the area of managing HR practices.

Good Human Resource practices simply prevent problems with employees and avoid other costs.  How often could better safety awareness procedures in the plant have prevented an accident or proper firing process eliminated a wrongful termination suit or better hiring practices prevented a hiring mistake or …?

Finding ways to manage HR inexpensively, but effectively, will control costs and create a better work environment.  Not following the changing compliance rules and regulations in HR can also cause issues.  The ounce of cure resolving HR issues often results in unnecessary legal costs.  The current national average for an hour of legal counsel is $284.  And legal costs are on the rise.  71% of US law firms increased rates in the poor economy of 2008 with some reaching $1,200 per hour.

How can better prevention practices in HR eliminate these costs, especially in small to medium size businesses where having an HR practitioner on staff can be a luxury or a single person in charge of the function can’t keep up with changing regulations?  There are means to satisfy this need, and inexpensively.  Check out www.hrinsights.com where for an annual membership fee of $485, a business can have access to up to date forms and an ability to check on best HR practices real time with expert advisors.  Potential legal fees saved are worth the cost of prevention.

More often attributable to Benjamin Franklin, the famous quote is traced back to the early 13th Century.  Henry de Bracton was a famous English jurist and author of De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae (On the Laws and Customs of England).  His influences on law are considerable.