WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?

What is he doing?! Why is he writing about sexual harassment, again? Haven’t we beat this mule to death over the years? Come on, there can’t be anything new about sexual harassment, can there? Nobody does this stuff anymore. We all know better.

Oh, if that were only true. TRUTH: Nothing is new in sexual harassment law. FALSE:  Nobody does this stuff anymore. I was flipping through the EEOC’s website this morning to see what is going on. The EEOC website has something new the EEOC calls the “Newsroom.” It is a page on which the EEOC tells us all about all the lawsuits they are filing and all the settlements they have “won.” The current edition of the page lists 20 entries of things going on at the EEOC. Nine of those entries (if my math is correct that’s 45%) involve either sexual harassment suits the EEOC has filed or settlements of sexual harassment suits the EEOC has “won.” So much for learning our lesson.

The most recent entry, dated 11/27/09 tells the tale of a suit filed against a Dunkin Donuts in N.Y. The suit alleges that the manager of this particular Dunkin Donuts “grabbed female employees’ buttocks and breasts, kissed them on the neck, and hugged them against their will.  He told them they were “hot” and told them he preferred virgins. He asked about their sex lives and described in explicit detail the sexual acts he wanted to perform on them, the EEOC said. He warned them not to tell anyone about what he said to them.” Are you kidding me?! The article indicated that some of the women subjected to this behavior were “teenagers”.  Now don’t forget, these are just allegations, not facts, but WOW. Really?!

How can this happen (if it really did happen)? Surely this company has a policy against sexual harassment. Of course they do, or at least I would assume they do. But what happens is we write the policies and put them in the handbook and then we sort of forget them. Can’t do that. You have to train your managers and supervisors. And then you have to train them again. And you have to have them trained by someone who knows what they are talking about. Yes, I know that doing harassment training is a pain and repeating it every year or every other year is even more of a pain. Managers and supervisors are busy and don’t want to attend. It costs money and takes time. Let’s go back to the EEOC website for a second and see how really expensive it is.  Let’s see now:  “Jury Awards $105,000 . . .”;  “. . . to pay $175,000 for Sex Harassment of Man by Female Co-Worker.”; “. . . to pay $200,000 for Sex Discrimination . . .”;  “. . . will pay $255,000 to Settle EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit involving teens.”

A few bucks for some really good training doesn’t seem quite so expensive now does it?  You can see the EEOC website at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/index.cfm