This is the first in a series of articles from Kurker Paget LLC on best employment practices for addressing workplace harassment.
- Nearly one third of the 90,000 complaints filed at the EEOC in 2015 involved allegations of unlawful harassment (including harassment based on other characteristics, such as race), and nearly one half of those involved sexual harassment.
- 3 out of 4 women who believe they have been harassed at work do not report it to anyone in the workplace; even fewer file formal complaints.
- Sexual harassment training, standing alone, has not been shown to effectively reduce the incidence of harassment in the workplace.
Organizational Risk Factors for Workplace Harassment:
- Homogenous workforces lacking in diversity.
- Workplaces where a minority of workers do not conform to predominant social workplace norms.
- Language differences in the workplace that limit communication across groups.
- Coarsened social discourse outside the workplace.
- Workforces comprised of younger workers (who are more often in the role of both victim and victimizer).
- Workplaces with high value, “Superstar” employees.
- Significant power disparities between different employee groups.
- Businesses that rely on customer service and satisfaction, which can increase the pressure on workers to tolerate inappropriate behavior so as not to risk alienating a customer.
- Workers engaged in monotonous or low intensity tasks that generate boredom and frustration.
- Workplaces that tolerate alcohol consumption.
- Physically isolated workspaces.
- Decentralized work locations lacking regular managerial supervision.
The Problem of “Superstar Harassers”
A Roadmap to Reducing Workplace Harassment
The time has come for employers to consider revamping their workplace harassment training, especially in light of evidence that conventional harassment training, standing alone, does not reduce the occurrence of harassment.
The EEOC recommends that employers adopt multi-faceted reporting systems that offer employees a range of options for reporting and addressing inappropriate behavior. Such options should allow for a range of responses, depending on the conduct and circumstances, rather than limiting employees to a single reporting mechanism and one-size-fits-all investigatory response.
Likewise, employers must ensure that their investigations into reports of harassment are prompt, fair and thorough, and that those who conduct investigations are trained to do so. We will offer further guidance on the key aspects of investigating harassment later in this series.