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Posts tagged "sexual harassment".
March 16, 2018
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Topics Employment

A previous blog post discussed sexual harassment in the workplace. This post discusses steps that an employer can take to avoid liability for sexual harassment, or at least minimize legal exposure.

1. Have a Sexual Harassment Policy

An employer should have a clearly articulated sexual harassment policy that:

  • expressly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace;
  • defines and provides examples of sexual harassment;
  • establishes the scope of the policy in relation to employees and third parties; and
  • establishes a complaint procedure for victims or observers of sexual harassment. 

Recently, the #MeToo movement has cast a spotlight on sexual harassment in the workplace. Despite the media focus on sexual harassment, there still seems to be a fair amount of confusion about what is and is not sexual harassment.

Simply put, sexual harassment is harassment based on an individual’s sex. For legal purposes, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature that:

  1. affects an individual’s employment,
  2. unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or
  3. creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Construction

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that it is not “the business of the federal courts generally to clean up the language and conduct of construction sites” and held that an employer who exhibited lewd behavior that was sexual in nature was simply construction site vulgarity and trash talking in “an environment where these characteristics abound.” EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., LLC, No. 11-30770 at 1-2 (5th Cir. Jul. 27, 2012) (vacating the judgment in EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr. Co., LLC, 768 F. Supp. 2d 883 (E.D. La. 2011)).

Kerry Woods, an iron worker, alleged that Charles Wolfe, his former job superintendent, sexually harassed Woods in violation of Title VII under a theory of “gender stereotyping” and that his former employer, Boh Brothers Construction Company, LLC, knew of the harassment, failed to discipline Wolfe and retaliated against Woods for making a complaint.

Fire Engine.jpg

Two former Fairfax County Firefighters recently pursued sexual harassment claims against Fairfax County in Alexandria Federal Court.  In one case decided in late May of this year, former firefighter Mary Getts Bland received a $250,000 jury verdict.  In early June, a second former firefighter, Stacey Bailey had her claim dismissed on summary judgment. 

Peter Vieth of Virginia Lawyer’s Weekly reports

Both cases involved allegations of a male-dominated culture at Fairfax firehouses, where crude jokesare the norm and one particular officer regularly made explicit and demeaning comments to female employees.