Q. Is an employer responsible for stopping sexual harassment by a non-employee?
An employer is liable for harassment by a non-employee. The employer needs to be informed of harassment by a non-employee. The same rules apply to a non-employee as an employee. If the employer knew or should have known of the conduct they are responsible to stop it. Sometimes the employer has limited control over the non-employee but is still expected to take as much corrective action as is possible.
Q. I’m a supervisor and one of my employees just mentioned to me in the hallway that she felt this guy was coming on to her but she didn’t want to get him in trouble. What do I do?
Take employees seriously anytime they report actions they find unwanted. Supervisors need to take this information and look into it. Problems may be happening that aren’t reported. To ignore this information can lead to more serious trouble.
If the employer has a sexual harassment policy regarding these types of allegations then follow it. If the employer doesn’t have a sexual harassment policy get with the human resources department to write one.
Ignoring this kind of information may make the overall situation worse. The person that is behaving this way may not be aware it is unwanted and may keep progressing in his unwanted actions.
Since the information about these actions is not very detailed the investigation may find that the guy was naive. The behaviors may not have been meant to be sexual in nature. If he was trying to be friendly then you have an educational opportunity. Help him understand what appropriate work place behaviors are.
Q. I’m a supervisor and I just saw one of my female employees grab a guy’s back pocket in the break room. Is this something I need to do something about?
The law is applied to everyone so it doesn’t matter what the gender of the person doing the unwanted actions is. Therefore, a man is protected just the same as a woman.
Since it was in an informal environment it could be a welcome action. But to be safe the supervisor should informally check it out with the man to see if it was unwelcome. If it was unwelcome or unwanted then take appropriate actions.
If the guy welcomed the action then the employer may want to review its sexual harassment policy. Ensure that the employer wants this type of behavior at work. The employer doesn’t have to allow this type of behavior. This kind of action could be leading toward an environment where other people think it is all right to touch people.
Q. One of the people I supervise just left my office after telling me that he has been getting phone calls from a female co-worker that is about sex and that he doesn’t like it. What should I do now?
Follow your sexual harassment policy. The minimum action necessary is for the employer to look into the claims to establish as many facts as possible.
The employer’s sexual harassment policy can have several options here. A supervisor can investigate the allegations. Or someone from the human resources department can. Once the facts are found out then proper action needs to be taken to stop the harassment.
Remember to take all claims of possible sexual harassment seriously. The employer is responsible for a harassment free work environment.
Q. After our human resources investigated the sexual harassment complaint one of my employees made against another employee they determined it wasn’t sexual harassment. Since it was a frivolous complaint can I fire the person that complained?
Employees are protected from bad employment actions after they report actions they believe to be unfair. This means that just because the complaint was made but found to not be sexual harassment doesn’t remove the protection. To end someone’s employment for filing a complaint is retaliation. Therefore, it is an unfair employment action. This applies whether the person files an internal or external complaint.