A number of sexual harassment cases have crossed my desk recently, each with a story to tell and a takeaway to, well, take away.
“Follow The Leader”
I have always advised that, along with proper training, a top-down culture of zero tolerance is important. It is a significant key to keeping the workplace free from sexual harassment.
This EEOC case sort of proved my point – but, sadly, in reverse: a top-down culture of harassment was created by the manager, whose “lead role” in sexually harassing female employees was dutifully followed by his male employees.
“Follow me guys; I’m gonna jump off the roof”
The EEOC alleged that the warehouse manager of a Connecticut manufacturer and wholesaler “regularly subjected female workers to inappropriate sexual comments, gestures, propositions and physical touching. He also offered several female workers money in exchange for sex. … the manager’s sexual harassment was so well known in the warehouse that male workers followed his lead and harassed female employees through inappropriate sexual comments and gestures (emphasis added).”
The company agreed to pay $80,000 to settle the lawsuit.
Top down culture — very important to keep in mind that executives and managers can create a workplace free of harassment or can create a culture of harassment. It’s up to you. People, as well as ducks, tend to “follow the leader.”
Say Hello to Your New Partner – the EEOC!
“Hi, EEOC! Welcome to the firm!”
The EEOC announced that an Illinois food company agreed to pay $300,000 to conciliate a sexual harassment charge, in which the EEOC alleged that it had “subjected a class of female employees to sexual harassment that included unwelcome physical contact.”
A three-year agreement was entered into, in which the settlement amount is to be divvied up among the alleged discrimination victims. Moreover, the company “welcomed” a three-year oversight by the EEOC. Hi, podner!
It agreed to:
“Provide periodic reporting to EEOC on all complaints of sex discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation made at its Chatham location;”
“Retain an experienced outside consultant to provide annual training to all members of its Human Resources Department and all employees at its Chatham, Ill., location on the topics of discrimination and harassment, including, but not limited to, sex discrimination and harassment under Title VII;”
“Post an internal notification to its Chatham employees of this conciliation;” and
“Revise its employment policy to comply with Title VII and will distribute the revised policy (including laminated cards with the company’s equal employment opportunity hotline number listed) to all employees.”
“We are pleased,” said an EEOC district director, that the employer “was willing to work with EEOC to address issues of harassment and discrimination in its workplace. By reaching this agreement, the company is demonstrating its commitment to providing its employees with a work environment free of discrimination and harassment.”
And best of all, the EEOC will always be there if you need them!
Jumper Cabling, Rat Tailing, and Other Accosting Behavior Tolerated By Management Because “Cooks Hard To Replace”
According to a local newspaper, the Massachusetts AG announced a $200,000 settlement of a suit (and a related case) which alleged “an unbearable and hostile work environment” caused by a “decade-long pattern of sexual harassment of  female employees” at a diner.
The suit alleged that as early as 2004 “female employees of the diner, primarily waitresses, were regularly subject to sexualized commentary, catcalling, whistling and unwanted touching and advances from the cooks.”
“Grin and bear it — we need the cooks!”
Look at some of the allegations, as described in the newspaper:
The cooks “forced unwanted hugs on waitresses or found other ways to touch them,” including “`jumper cabling,’ in which cooks would squeeze the waist of a waitress from behind, ‘rat tailing,’ in which twisted kitchen towels were used to strike waitresses in the rear, watching pornographic videos on cellphones and laptops and inappropriately accosting female workers in the freezer.”
Managers disparaged the waitresses “by giving them nicknames and hurling verbal abuse at them, rated the hostesses based on their looks, and made comments about the weight of one waitress and scars another had on her arms.”
“The owners took the position, both explicitly and implicitly, that the cooks’ behavior was to be tolerated because the cooks were hard to replace, while the waitresses were not. [Managers] regularly referenced a purported stack of resumes kept by the cash register or waved the resumes at the waitresses to remind them that they were easily replaceable.”
So, best to grin and bear it if your job is at stake, don’t you think?