Where might one find veritable hotbeds of sexual harassment?
Not a bar or restaurant. Not a hotel. Not college campuses. Not just at Fox News (wink).
USA Today reports that our state capitols exude a “fraternity atmosphere” that make some state capitols “hotbeds of sexual harassment.” That’s right – our august local statesmen have created a hotbed of sexual harassment.
Here and here, Richard and I have covered Roger Ailes’ tenure at Fox News and the rampant sexual harassment to which he allegedly subjected women. Now, and by no means is he alone, we have Tennessee state Rep. Jeremy Durham, who was found to have preyed on 22 women during his four years in office in a report by the state attorney general.
Rep. Durham’s trials and tribulations (no pun intended) are hardly unique. According to the story, Rep. Durham follows a South Dakota senator in 2007, a senator from Vermont in 2015, and a Missouri speaker of the House also in 2015.
What is going on here?
Well, as Sam Polk described in the much-discussed WSJ article about “bro talk” on Wall Street and as we described in our coverage of the Roger Ailes fiasco, it seems that those at the top are creating and nurturing a culture of sexual harassment and intimidation, which trickles down through a company or industry.
The question for employers is: what can you do to stop such behavior occurring in your workplace?
Let’s remember: sexually charged comments—verbally, by text, or on any one of the innumerable social media apps like WhatsApp or SnapChat—made by an employee or supervisor to another employee may subject an employer to liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it rises to the level of sexual harassment and/or gender discrimination.
So, I leave you with a reminder for your companies and some of our state senators:
- Have a strong sexual harassment policy set forth in your employee manuals and handbooks;
- Have a procedure for investigating any claims of sexual harassment and follow it;
- Train your employees to be decent human beings…just kidding, I mean, train them on EEO policies and laws;
- Encourage reporting of sexual harassment; and
- Document, document, document any employee’s claim of sexual harassment or sex discrimination as well as the steps you take to stop and prevent it.