HR Management & Compliance

More Scenarios to Help Train Managers to Recognize Sexual Harassment

Managers and Supervisors, What Do You Do When …

A co-worker from another department keeps asking one of your people out, and brings candies. Your employee is not interested in dating the coworker and you are on a diet.

[You should step in and put a stop to this before it turns into a lawsuit. The organization knows of the behavior, and so must act.]

A delivery person keeps asking your receptionist out, and brings candies. Your employee is not interested in dating the person.

[Even though the delivery person is not in your employ, you must act. Speak to him or her, and if that doesn’t help, ask that another driver be assigned to your route.]

You are very attracted to one of your subordinates. You are determined to at least find out if the feeling is reciprocated.

[Dating between bosses and subordinates is forbidden at most organizations. Follow your organization’s policy, or talk to HR.]

Your work area is a back office operation that’s pretty hectic, and, you have to admit, a little gross. People swear at each other, call each other names, and make catcalls and comments at each other. One of the workers visits a joke website every morning and shouts out the gross joke of the day. Most of the workers participate, but a few seem uncomfortable.

[This is a hostile environment in the making. You have to tone things down.]


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Your boss has suggested, but not in so many words, that if you two were to develop a relationship outside of work, promotions, bonuses, and other benefits would come your way. You are not interested in the relationship, but worry that you’re not going to get a fair chance at the promotion, etc.

[This sounds like quid pro quo harassment. Report it.]

One worker checks personal e-mail at work and occasionally opens mail from friends that contains pornographic pictures. He shuts them down quickly and no one has complained of seeing one.

[Eventually someone will see one of these pictures and be offended. Furthermore, you don’t want these images on your network. When a lawsuit is filed, there’s the proof that the manager looked at those images at work.]

One of the organization’s best workers has approached you with a problem. She is being hit on by her department supervisor, but she doesn’t want you to do anything. She just wants it to be on record that she told someone. She’s handling the situation, and she asks you to promise not to discuss the matter with anyone.

[Once harassment has been reported, most experts would say, you have to investigate the complaint. Talk to HR. You can promise that you will try to keep the investigation as confidential as possible, but you cannot promise complete confidentiality.]

A group of your workers has decided that another employee is gay, and they are teasing the person mercilessly.

[Sexual orientation is not a protected class in many areas, although a good attorney will be able to make a case out of this situation in any jurisdiction. But beyond that, it’s not appropriate behavior for the workplace. You must stop it.]

What can we learn from yesterday’s and today’s scenarios?

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