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Subtle Sexual Harassment – UPDATE

The US Supreme Court has made several recent rulings regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Here is a brief summary of those decisions:

bluebullet.gif (56 bytes) In a ruling in February 1998, the Court determined that same-sex harassment is illegal under federal law. That is, a woman who harasses another woman or a man who harasses another man is in violation of the law assuming that the other requirements of unlawful harassment are present.

bluebullet.gif (56 bytes) In June of 1998, the Court clarified that an employer may be liable for its supervisors’ sexual harassment, even if it didn’t know about the misconduct. In some cases, an employer can defend itself by saying it took reasonable steps to prevent harassment on the job. These steps would include: having a clear policy against harassment, ensuring that all employees are aware of the policy, enforcing the policy, and providing reasonable means by which an employee can inform the organization of an incident of harassment.

bluebullet.gif (56 bytes) The Court also determined that in some cases where an employer has taken reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior and where an employee fails to take advantage of the employer’s well-publicized complaint procedures, the employer can present these facts as a defense and may avoid liability.

bluebullet.gif (56 bytes) In cases where a supervisor causes an employee to suffer a tangible adverse impact on his or her employment as a result of an incident of sexual harassment or as retaliation for reporting such an incident, the employer may still be found liable even if it has taken affirmative measures to end workplace harassment.

Sexual harassment is a complex legal area. The programs Quality Media Resources, Inc. (QMR) produces are intended to assist organizations in making their employees aware of their responsibilities under the law. Our programs are not intended to replace or substitute for the advice of legal counsel nor are they intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have legal questions regarding the issue of harassment, please contact your organization’s legal counsel.

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