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Stupid things that people do that create sexual harassment lawsuits.

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Sexual harassment charges are serious and can lead to embarrassment, scandal and ruin for a company or its employers. Educating employees on sexual harassment and establishing policies for enforcement will help to avoid sexual harassment charges.

Oftentimes, employees will not know that their behavior is offensive, nor is their intent malicious. Many times, it is the result of joking between two parties getting out of hand. For this reason, it's important to make certain each party knows what is considered appropriate and what is not. Some of the more obvious include:

  • Discussing sexual activities
  • Telling inappropriate or off-color jokes
  • Promising advances in pay or position in exchange for sexual favors
  • Unwelcome touching or groping
  • Displaying suggestive or pornographic pictures
  • Commenting on physical attributes, such as bra size
  • Verbal abuse described as humor
  • Questions about a person's sexual activity or orientation
  • Leering or staring

There are a number of stupid things people do that can result in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Consider the following examples:

  • A group of employees, 5 men and 1 woman, are sitting in a meeting when the CEO of the company notices his coffee cup is empty. Jokingly, he hands the woman the glass and says, "Go get me some more coffee, woman." While he may have been joking, his remark was inappropriate, offensive, and falls under the umbrella of sexual harassment. Demeaning words such as "woman," "broad," and "bitch" should be avoided in the workplace.
  • A male and female employee are laughing and joking about bra sizes. This conversation in and of itself is probably inappropriate in the workplace, but then the male employee asks the female if her breasts are real. While they are both involved in the conversation and she appears to be going along with it, questions regarding a person's anatomy, either male or female, are grounds for sexual harassment charges.
  • An office has a particularly attractive male working there. The women in the office often talk about how "hot" he is. One day, the male is in the break room as he leans over to get something from a drawer. One of the female employees then playfully slaps his backside. This unwelcome touching can result in a sexual harassment lawsuit. In another example, one male employee often puts his arm around the women he works with while speaking to them. While this action is done without malice, it too could be grounds for a lawsuit.
  • An employee has a calendar of swimsuit models in skimpy bikinis hanging up in his office. Any time anyone walks in, they can see it. Many of the women find it offensive. While he may argue that he can do what he wants with his office, this stupid behavior is one example of behavior that can result in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
  • A female employee feels harassed by an employee and complains to her boss. He ignores her complaints, telling her the other employee is just joking. This is stupid because his negligence could result in a lawsuit filed against not just the individual, but the company as well for failing to take action or for allowing the harassment.

Regardless of whether acts such as these are intentional or not, they are all considered inappropriate. However, ignorance or stupidity is no excuse. By educating your employees and yourselves on what is appropriate and what is not - even in jest - you can avoid the chance of having a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against you or the company.

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Posted by DF
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