Friday, July 6, 2007

Employment Responsibility in Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as an unwelcome attention that is sexual in nature. Sexual harassment is also a form of illegal discrimination and abuse in some countries including the United States.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits harassment of an employee based on race, color, sex, religion or national origin. It is the duty of every employer to make sure that its employees are free from harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Although the employer is not directly responsible, the duty encompasses the obligation to protect and defend the employees from sexual harassment and other types of harassment and discrimination.

In June of 1998, the Supreme Court issued two major decisions that explained when employers would be held liable or legally responsible for unlawful harassment by its supervisors. It has been stated that an employer is always responsible for harassment by a supervisor if the sexual harassment leads to tangible employment action.

A tangible employment action is when the harassment results to the hiring, firing, demotion or promotion of the employee victim.

If there is no tangible employment action that coincides with the sexual harassment, the employer could escape liability for the sexual harassment act he proves the following:

  1. The employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment; and
  2. The employee unreasonably failed to complain to management or to avoid harm otherwise.

In the first, the employer can show that it tried to prevent harassment by showing that it made it clear to all employees as a policy that harassment and discrimination in any form is prohibited in the workplace. Also, the employer can show that it had established guidelines and grievance machinery to protect its employees from sexual harassment.

On the second, it is the duty of every employee to promptly and properly complains to the employer about the harassment in the workplace. The unreasonable delay in the filing of a complaint could be construed as acquiescence to the sexual act.

If you are an employer, make sure that you make it known in the workplace that harassment in any form is not allowed. Otherwise, you just could be made liable to the sexual aggressiveness of your supervisors.