I know that this is a difficult subject. Personally, I find it deeply troubling and uncomfortable – but that does not make it any less important. We all deserve to feel comfortable and safe in our work space. When that is threatened, it can make us less productive, unhappy, and more likely to quit.
However, there is another level of danger here. The United States has implemented many laws surrounding this topic since the 1980s. So, familiarity with these laws is probably wise for any business owners or anyone in a management position. It isn’t something that should only be delegated to the Human Resources department, no matter how tempting it may be.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
In one of the country’s Civil Rights Movements, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed into law. The most pertinent part of this for businesses is Title VII. For a detailed report on it from the United States Department of Justice, you can look at this page.
It can be difficult to wrap our heads around what makes these passages so vital. A lot of this comes from the decision that the Supreme Court made in the 1980s. Specifically, the Supreme Court ruled that the clause stating that discrimination based on “sex” applies to sexual harassment in the work place.
Not all forms of harassment are sexual in nature, of course. There are several other unlawful forms of discrimination that can fall under this umbrella. These can include (but are not necessarily limited to): discrimination based on gender, discrimination based on religion, discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination based on age, and discrimination based on race or color.
This is not allowed to occur in any part of the employment process. IF you’re wondering what I mean by this, I’ll try to put it simply. You cannotdisplay bias in advertisements for hiring, in performing interviews or tests, in the pay of employees or their assignment, in choosing promotions, in choosing who to lay off, in deciding who is allowed to use facilities owned by the company, in the conditions and terms of employment, and in benefits such as insurance or retirement funds.
This law also states that a work place must respect and accommodate religious practices and beliefs that are truly held by an employee. As long as said belief does not endanger anyone or put a huge strain on the business, of course, but it’s a very important part of the law.
Violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
This commission is incredibly important in upholding the laws surrounding harassment and unlawful bias in a business. You can find their website here: www.eeoc.gov. It’s important to keep in mind that these laws have been updated recently, most notably because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent of these actually came in March of 2022.
I find it useful to learn about these things to ensure that my business and I always fall in compliance with laws in this ever changing environment. We need to be adaptable and understand how to create an inclusive and safe work environment.
The main goal of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is to prevent harassment cases through education and outreach programs. Some of us might think comments are harmless when in fact they are quite offensive.
Jokes about intercourse, for example, can actually fall under sexual harassment. It’s important to understand what might qualify to stop it from happening. Obviously, we can never entirely stop this problem. That being said, it’s a noble goal, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is commendable for its commitment to the cause.
Perhaps the most effective way to stop harassment, especially sexual harassment, before it even begins is teaching about it. There are many options for sexual harassment prevention trainings, and no matter how you choose to go about it, it will most likely benefit your business.
Something important to note is that the perpetrators of these actions is not always male. Both men and women are capable of doing this, so all reports should be taken seriously. Some men are afraid to speak up about a sexual harassment case because of perceived judgement from their peers.
Making everyone feel safe reporting this kind of event is something else to touch upon in a training session. If employees do not feel comfortable going to anyone about it, this might be a sign of a poor work environment. Try to ascertain how your workers are feeling during a training, or even send out an anonymous survey.
Informing your work force what qualifies as sexual harassment and that there are policies and laws in place to prevent this is important. I would highly recommend it for a health work space.