What is The First Step a Supervisor Should Take in Response to a Sexual Harassment Complaint?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces the laws that make it illegal to discriminate against any employee on the basis of their age, race, color, disability, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, religion, or sex. This includes sexual harassment.
The EEOC covers most labor unions, employment agencies, and employers with 15 or more employees. Tennessee approximates the EEOC with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission.
So, what does the EEOC consider sexual harassment in the workplace? Some examples include:
- Sexual jokes
- Sexual propositions
- Asking questions about an employee’s or coworker’s sex life or conduct
- Asking personal or intimate questions
- Referring to men or women by crude sexual names
- Making sexual threats
- Bragging about sexual prowess
- Making derogatory gender-based sexual comments
- Repeatedly asking for dates, affection, attention, or touching
- Making fun of a coworker in a sexual way
- Passing or posting sexual materials
- Displaying pornographic cartoons, posters, or explicit objects
What Should Your Supervisor Do?
As recommended by the EEOC, when a supervisor receives a complaint, or otherwise learns of sexual harassment in the workplace, the first step he or she should take is immediate responsive action. Specifically, the supervisor should thoroughly investigate the allegation and take immediate action to correct the behavior if the allegation has any merit.
In other words, the supervisor should do whatever is necessary to stop the harassment and restore any lost employment benefits or opportunities to the victim of the harassment. Also, appropriate disciplinary actions should be taken against the offending party. Depending on the severity of the conduct, this disciplinary action can range from a simple reprimand to termination of employment.
Lastly, the EEOC recommends that the supervisor conduct follow-up inquiries with the parties involved to make sure that the harassing behavior has not resumed and that the victim has not suffered any retaliation for reporting the harassment.
The Role Of Legal Counsel in Sexual Harassment Complaints
Often, your employer may involve their own legal counsel early in the process to assist them in responding to your complaint in an appropriate and timely manner. In fact, if your supervisor does not respond to your complaint adequately, you may have grounds to sue for damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against your employer.
On the other hand, if you are currently being sexual harassed at work or have been sexually harassed in the past, you can employ your own employment law attorney to advise you of your legal rights as an employee and help you hold your employer responsible for your supervisor’s