If you own a business in Las Vegas, then you are probably aware of your responsibility to protect your employees from discrimination or sexual harassment. In a previous post, you learned about ways you can protect your company from these types of employment practice claims. However, if an employee comes to you with a complaint of sexual harassment, how do you determine if the claim is legitimate?
First it is important to determine what type of conduct falls under sexual harassment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment may involve the telling of sexual-based jokes, posted material of a sexual nature, direct solicitation of an employee for sexual acts, unwelcome touching of the person, or sexual comments that are intended to upset the person. Furthermore, the person making the complaint about harassment does not have to be the intended victim. For example, if one of your employees was telling a sexual joke to a fellow co-worker, a third person standing nearby could report it if they felt offended by the content of the joke.
Second, you should be aware that victims can be male or female as well as perpetrators. Often, when people think about this type of issue, they often picture women as victims and men as perpetrators. However, women have also been known to engage in inappropriate behavior. Also, the victim does not need to have suffered harm in order to be a victim so when you speak with the victim, you should consider financial impact irrelevant in the matter.
You should always take your employee’s complaint seriously and look at the matter from his or her viewpoint. For instance, if you are a male employer and your victim is female, put yourself in her shoes when you examine the complaint. If you feel that the behavior would reasonably make you uncomfortable, then it is safe to say harassment may have occurred. You must also determine whether the behavior created a work environment that was hostile. If you overhear your employees relating gender jokes, and no one complains, then harassment has not happened. However, you may want to remind your employees of what topics are appropriate for the workplace. While this information is designed to be helpful, it should not be construed as legal advice.