The commonwealth requires businesses to conduct sexual harassment training for new or existing employees who change positions within one year of the hire date. It also encourages companies to complete additional training for managers and supervisors within one year of hiring or promotion. Along with being the right course of action for protecting employees in the workplace, training can also benefit employers by reducing or eliminating personnel problems and expensive lawsuits.
Common examples of harassment
Sexual harassment is generally defined as unwelcome sexual advances or actions while on the job, and it is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These actions create a hostile, intimidating or offensive workplace. Common examples include:
- Groping an employee
- Telling sexually explicit jokes in public workspaces
- Sending offensive or explicit emails or messages
- A boss implying that a worker must sleep with them to advance their career
- A boss or manager referring to staff in a demeaning or sexist way
- Inappropriate comments about a coworker’s clothing choices
Measures for addressing harassment in the workplace
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends several preventative measures. These include:
- A clear policy: Companies should have a straightforward definition of harassment, the company’s stance on the matter and consequences for those who engage in such behavior.
- Training: It is crucial to prioritize training on this issue.
- Encourage workers to come forward: Provide a safe environment for employees to share their experiences or those they witness.
- Investigate: All complaints should be taken seriously.
- Monitor: Employers and managers should be on the lookout for sexual harassment.
The law is clear
Massachusetts mandates that companies with six or more workers must have an official written policy regarding this matter, and the commonwealth provides other guidance on this matter. Regardless of whether they are aware of an issue, a company can still be held accountable for the illegal actions of any employee. Employers may also be held responsible for harassment on the job by non-employees or customers, clients, independent contractors or other acquaintances in the workplace or work-related situations.
Those with questions about this matter may need an attorney that handles business and employment law matters. They can help draft policies to protect employees and businesses, hold businesses responsible for not enforcing a policy, and other legal issues surrounding sexual harassment.