Prevent Sexual Harassment in Your DealershipCED Magazine, December 2006
Article Date: 12-01-2006
Copyright (C) 2006 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.
Looking the other way can cost you.
Sexual harassment is a subject no company can afford to ignore. In 2005, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received more than 12,000 sexual harassment claims and negotiated settlements totaling $47.9 million.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment; unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance; or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
Examples of sexual harassment would be when a supervisor implies an employee must engage in sexual relations with the supervisor to keep his or her job; an office clerk is made uncomfortable by the sales manager, who regularly tells sexually explicit jokes; or a service technician sends unwelcome e-mails to co-workers that contain sexually explicit content.
According to the EEOC, sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to:
The victim, as well as the harasser, can be a woman or man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or not an employee.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Unlawful sexual harassment can occur without economic injury to the victim or employment termination of the victim.
The harasser’s conduct is unwelcome.
When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, the EEOC takes into consideration many factors, including reviewing the nature of the sexual advances and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred, on a case-by-case basis.
Establish A Formal Policy
To prevent sexual harassment at your dealership, first establish a formal policy prohibiting sexual harassment. Clearly indicate the type of actions that could be construed as harassment and what steps employees should take if they are harassed.
Appoint a senior executive to administer the policy, and routinely communicate the policy through bulletins, articles in the company newsletter, regularly scheduled meetings and training programs.
Make it easy for complainants to bring matters to the attention of management. Post or distribute notices detailing to whom and how employees should address complaints.
Train your managers, supervisors and employees on conduct that might constitute harassment, and on your dealership’s anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures.
Investigate All Complaints
All complaints should be taken seriously. Regardless of how trivial or unjustified they may appear, investigate every complaint. And be sure to keep written records of all findings.
You should not terminate an employee for filing a complaint.
Avoid making rash decisions - analyze the facts, consult your attorney and take action if necessary.
If the complaint is justified, correct the situation. If an investigation finds the complaint was not justified, explain the decision carefully and diplomatically to the employee who filed the complaint. Keep in mind that if he or she is not satisfied, a charge can still be filed with the EEOC or a state equivalent.
Don't look for an easy way out. Transferring the harasser to another department may solve the immediate problem, but if the harasser repeats the offense in the new assignment, the situation is compounded.
Finally, remember that it is unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.
Implement these steps to create a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment in your dealership. Doing so will help minimize your exposure to a potentially costly sexual harassment lawsuit.
Questions can be directed to Sentry Insurance Safety Services at 800-443-9655 or visit sentry.com.
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