It couldn’t POSSIBLY be harassment… or could it?
  • leadership
  • Blog post

It couldn’t POSSIBLY be harassment… or could it?

We’ve talked about not-so-obvious sexual harassment cases that can trip up even savvy managers and HR executives.

Here’s another twist to be aware of:

A manager oversees a blue-collar environment where women and men work together. One day the manager hears two of the women describing to their male peers what they saw in a porn video. The women are clearly the instigators, and the guys don’t seem to mind, so the manager doesn’t make too much of it. He just tells them to knock it off. But weeks later one of the women gets laid off and she files a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

You may be thinking, “How could she possibly win since she was doing the talking?” That’s not the right question. The real issue is, “Why was the obscene sexual talk tolerated at all? Especially in a public area where multiple witnesses could testify that it was taking place?”

That’s what gave the female employee the traction she needed to FILE a lawsuit. Once filed, a lawsuit has to be challenged at great cost to a company. The most likely outcome is a settlement.

I recall another case where a woman trash talked with a group of men. Everything was fine until at some point the level of vulgarity escalated and the woman became uncomfortable. She sued and won.

Fact is, any kind of sexual banter among employees should be treated as radioactive. Detect it. And end it. The sooner the better.

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