Most employers want to be an employer of choice, says Segal, and this is not the way to go about it. Segal, who is one of SHRM's most popular speakers, is a partner in the Philadelphia office of law firm Duane Morris LLP. His remarks came at a recent SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition.
We’re proud to announce that we have won the case. We won by proving that we subject employees to abuse regardless of gender, race, age, or other protected characteristic. We condone equal opportunity abuse.
This is not good PR, Segal says. It’s an ugly case to win, a Pyrrhic victory at best. Segal suggests that long before behavior reaches the level of illegality, it reaches the level of inappropriate.
Bottom line, conduct that is mean-spirited is unprofessional, inappropriate, and contrary to your organization values.
Employer ‘Wins’ Another Case
Segal describes another case in which a manager yelled and screamed at a woman. She alleged harassment even though there was no sexual content.
The company’s defense was this: We agree in part—the manager did yell at her, but not because of sex. In fact, he yelled at everybody. Here are six men and their therapists who will testify to the emotional damage they suffered as a result of being yelled at by the manager.
The employer prevailed. But is that really the kind of case you want to be involved with? asks Segal. The negative publicity and the effect on morale are bad enough, but this is also the kind of thing that brings third parties, such as unions, into your operations.
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‘Promotion Might Be Yours’
How about this situation?
A manager suggests that a promotion might be go to a certain subordinate if the manager’s sexual requests are responded to.
This is quid pro quo harassment. It’s economic rape. It’s is indefensible. There are no defenses and you will face strict liability, says Segal.
How about these two situations?
A female manager politely asks male subordinate to have sex with her.
Male manager asks female subordinate for date.
What’s the difference? They may seem different, but there’s really not much difference in these two situations, says Segal. No matter how nicely the question is asked, the asker is still the supervisor. The subordinate worries: What are the consequences if I say “No”? The subordinate may say “Yes” when he or she wants to say “No.”
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It’s about the power, the use and abuse of power, says Segal. But beyond that it’s still a problem even if the behavior is peer to peer. You don’t want people saying, I’d like to see org chart so I can see who I can ask. You’re still going to get the hostile environment claim.
In tomorrow’s Advisor, more of Segal’s tips, plus an introduction to one of the most practical and useful guides available—the 50x50—50 Employment Laws in 50 States.
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