The Workplace Law Advisor: From Harassment and Discrimination Policies to Hiring and Firing Guidelines: What Every Manager and Employee Needs to Know

By Anne Covey | Go to book overview

six
Sexual Harassment in
the Workplace

In educating employees throughout the country on sexual harassment in the workplace, I ask the seminar participants what they think makes a good employment relationship. Most individuals have no instantaneous response. After some deliberation, a few employees provide their insight-respect, communication, good wages, teamwork. When I ask this same group of individuals what makes a bad employment relationship, I readily receive numerous responses with descriptive adjectives.

I then ask the participants how many people have ever been a party to or have heard the following statement: "Jane just has no sense of humor. She got all upset when I was telling that joke on sexual relations." Unfortunately, most people respond in the affirmative. Although most people are tired of hearing about sexual harassment in the workplace, especially after the President Clinton and Paula Jones case, the sentiments of the United States Supreme Court in June 1998 are similar to my audiences' reply to the joke on sexual relations. In a landmark decision, the Court in Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 ( 1998), stated, "[e]veryone knows by now that sexual harassment is a common problem in the American workplace." In light of this statement, the large number of sexual harassment cases with large jury awards, and the infiltration of these lawsuits in the school systems, there exists a real need to understand the importance of this subject matter.

The most critical aspect is that plaintiffs always name at least two parties as defendants in a complaint of sexual harassment. Most persons think of the employer as being potentially liable. However, they fail to realize that an employer that does everything required of it under the law is not liable. That leaves the individual who precipitated the lawsuit by engaging in the harassing conduct. Most people are shocked to learn that this individual may be person-

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