Thursday, August 16, 2007

sexual harassment policy facts

i don't quite remember all the details, but we had a sexual harassment seminar earlier this summer and some of the facts i learned were quite incredible. apparently it is important to be educated on what constitutes sexual harassment because it is one of the things that the company is not responsible for--the court could rule to have me (the harasser) pay the whole settlement. (usually they rule for the accused to pay for part of it and the company to cover the rest--it is often half and half, maybe?)

anyway, this lawyer who deals with this sort of thing came in and told us about some of the cases they dealt with. he said that usually borderline cases go to court, so you usually don't hear about the extreme ones.

here are some things i learned about sexual harassment policies:
  • for verbal harassment, the plaintiff needs to give notice before filing a complaint.
  • for other sorts of harassment, no notice needs to be given.
  • intent doesn't factor into the ruling because most people do not intend to harass.
i learned the following about the ramifications of such policies:
  • not laughing apparently counts as "giving notice." there was a case in which the plaintiff found a coworker's sexual jokes offensive. thought she never gave notice, the fact that she never laughed was enough.
  • if you have a screensaver that shows images from the internet and accidentally shows pornography, someone could successfully file a complaint against you.
  • if you have an offensive piece of art (or photograph), someone could file a complaint. (perhaps this is why we only have rothko reproductions around the office.)
  • even if the person you are harassing enjoys it, someone else could become offended and successfully file a complaint. the courts consider third party harassment legitimate.
  • doing anything obviously harassing is considered harassment and you/your company could be forced to pay a lot of money. (these sexual harassment cases seem to settle for far higher than family leave cases, for instance.)

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