Employers should know that, from the top down, an anti-harassment tone and policy must be set.
But what if the employer – the company owner – is the harasser?
That’s what happened in a newly settled case.
According to the EEOC, the owner of the company “sexually harassed female employees to a point where one worker was forced to quit and other female victims were fired. … [he] repeatedly made lewd sexual comments to and about his female employees, including telling offensive sexual jokes, using derogatory terms for female genitalia, and commenting on women’s breast sizes and body shapes.”
A former receptionist at a Washington State precious metals dealer stated that “I faced shocking, sexually explicit behavior, but the owner’s bullying and screaming at me was just as bad. I was just trying to make a living for myself and my family, but I finally said, ‘I can’t take this anymore’ and quit.”
For this behavior the company agreed to settle for $750,000.
Takeaway: Amy and I have written many, many times before that employers should not tolerate discrimination or harassment in any form, and must make it clear by words and deeds that employees have the right to complain about such acts and that their complaints will be investigated and remediated if confirmed.
An anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policy must be inserted into employee manuals, which are kept updated periodically.
All management personnel as well as line workers must be trained and educated in the basics of discrimination and harassment law and compliance and its application in the workplace.
But what if the harasser is the boss? An EEOC Field Director said that “Sexual harassment laws apply to everyone in the workplace, especially the head of the company, who has a duty to keep all employees safe. When harassers take advantage of their authority to abuse their victims and keep them silent, the EEOC must fight for workers’ rights to a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.”