The #metoo movement demonstrates just how much harassment in the workplace still exists. When you take into account that women are still trying to break through the glass ceiling as well, it doesn’t seem as if it’s 2018. It is, and unfortunately, harassment in the workplace remains an issue for many businesses. It isn’t just women who are harassed in the workplace, all workers have the potential to become victims of harassment at one point or another in their careers. Does your business harass? Are you certain it doesn’t? Here are five things that really do constitute harassment in the workplace.
1. Quid Pro Quo
Appalachian State University explains that certain types of quid pro quo can be considered workplace harassment. Quid pro quo means “something for something” in Latin, and as explained by App State, “When the trade is an exchange involving race, sex, gender identity and expression, color, national origin, religion, creed, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, veteran status, disability or genetic information, it is impermissible.” Quid pro quo harassment isn’t just sexual harassment. For example, if you offer an employee a raise and/or promotion in exchange for information on a transgender employee you’d like to fire, this could be construed as quid pro quo harassment.
2. Hostile Work Environment
The above example could also be construed as a hostile work environment. You don’t like the transgender employee and you want to see her gone. You constantly interfere with her ability to do her job and often make snide comments about her sexual orientation behind her back. She knows about the comments, however, because other employees tell her. You also intimidate her. You give her a hard time. What’s a little fun at her expense? After all, isn’t she a freak of nature? What is she anyway? A she or he? Did you pose that question to her? If so, you’ve just created a hostile work environment.
The transgender employee filed a complaint of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. You are so steamed you cannot control yourself. You will retaliate in ways she’s never imagined. You’d best calm down and rethink your strategy. Retaliation is harassment, too, and it doesn’t have to be from you alone. If one employee retaliates against another employee for any reason, including promotion, raises, or even commendation, this can be construed as harassment. Retaliation makes for a hostile work environment, and employees who file complaints for firings cannot be retaliated against, either.
4. Sexual Harassment
The most well-known of workplace harassment, sexual harassment, is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You cannot hire or fire an employee based on gender alone, nor can you sexually harass a female or male employee if you are attracted to him or her or as quid pro quo. Employees cannot sexually harass each other, either, so if you have an employee come to you with a complaint of sexual harassment, it’s wise to investigate the matter fully. Do not make the mistake of even touching an employee on the shoulder if that touch can be interpreted as suggestive in any way.
5. Unlawful Harassment
Finally, any harassment that is impermissible by company policy and law, and any harassment that is impermissible by law is unlawful harassment. Assume for a moment that you have an employee who has been disabled by an automobile accident. Rather than renovate the employee’s workspace to accommodate his wheelchair, you’ve let him go. This could be considered unlawful harassment under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. An employer must make accommodations for disabled employees unless the job simply cannot be performed safely by a disabled person.
A Multiple Harassment Example
Imagine you own a business like Rent Like a Champion, the business Guest Shark Chris Sacca invested in during episode six of Shark Tank’s seventh season. Sacca, a retired venture capitalist who previously worked for Google, Inc. and owned Lowercase Capital, dropped $100,000 of his own money for a five-percent stake in this company. Sacca is well-known for turning companies he touches into gold. He’s invested in Instagram, Twitter, Uber, and many other top businesses in today’s global landscape. Sacca is also known for offering crucial business advice that encourages business substantial business growth.
Your business opens and is a success. You match renters with accommodations throughout the U.S. so they can travel to attend major sporting events. Your business also has the transgender and injured employees discussed above on its payroll. Every day at lunch, one employee spends her lunch hour telling the transgender employee how she’s sinned against God. Your injured employee does not have access to the lunchroom at all, as there is no ramp and it can only be accessed by stairs. The transgender employee comes to you and complains. The injured employee also complains. You ignore both.
Take a look at the five examples above again. Your business may be liable for a hostile work environment, sexual, and unlawful harassment. Don’t let your business be a victim of harassment. Learn what it is and implement training and policies to prevent it.
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Founder Dinis Guarda
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