Recognize these two people? Of course you do, unless you are under the age of 21. This sexual harassment case happened to astound and amaze, while shaming this entire country and the world to this day. Our nation’s most embarrassing and “borderline unbelievable” case of the ultimate misuse of power, the most outlandish statements ever made regarding the topic, and what can happen to an individual presumably “above the law” embodied the case, and captured the attention of the world as a result.
No one can claim that the President was never trained on sexual harassment, although someone brave may be able to make that claim regarding the young intern, Ms. Lewinsky. As a man with a license to practice law, Mr. President clearly knew the path he was on when he chose to have an affair with an intern in the oval office, and possessing the naiveté to think that he could talk his way out of such a litigant’s dream. Mr. Clinton rocked the political world more than once, having also been involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit with Paula Jones as the defendant.
HRworld.com, a web site devoted to human resource information and training, compiled a list of more than twenty notable harassment lawsuits that shook the business world in one way or another.
In addition to the Clinton/Lewinsky case, some other famous, or rather infamous sexual harassment suits include Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, John Thomas and Danny Pippen (the landmark case in which the supreme court determined that sexual harassment charges could also be filed against members of the same gender), and Koko the Gorilla and Francine “Penny” Patterson. Ms. Patterson was forced to bare her breasts to Koko the Gorilla as an experiment. Senator Bob Packwood and the case which identified nine defendants that caused the House Ethics Committee to remove him from office made headlines as well.
Not a single person involved in these or other notable cases can attest that they never received any sexual harassment training, yet each of them were either found guilty of or a victim of sexual harassment in one form or another. Training simply isn’t enough.
Once the policies have been thoroughly reviewed by not only a human resource professional, but also a legal expert in the field of human resources and EEOC, the job of enforcement and vigilant oversight is just beginning. The Department of Labor office of the EEOC spells out the specific type and degree of training that must be included in any company policy package. Managers and supervisors must be trained to be on the lookout for unfair and illegal treatment of employees, interactions between staff members themselves, and interactions between outside vendors, strategic alliances, network partners and channel providers with the entire workforce. There have even been cases filed against the wives and/or husbands of employers attempting to either solicit sexual favors from or to employees, employers, vendors or suppliers as a matter of winning influence, or control over someone or something. A case in Florida revealed that the wife of a business owner unduly harassed a contract consultant as a means of controlling the work environment under which they both worked. The consultant was repeatedly touched, groped, teased and sexual favors solicited from as a means of having the consultant work for less pay, providing a “quid pro quo” defense. In their decision, arbitrators agreed that the sexual favors were offered in an effort to assuage the need to pay him in dollars.
Where is the logic you say? Typically, sexual harassment stems from emotional based thinking rather from pure logic. Harassment in any form stems from a need for some type of control of others, either through bullying or simply bullying with sexual overtones. Offenders can rationalize their actions in such a way that the actions make sense from some misguided standpoint, and not until the complaints are filed do their thought patterns change to a more logical view.
Today’s businessperson needs to arm him or herself with every possible tool to better protect the outcomes when it comes to HR, especially topics like sexual harassment. As evidenced by the “infamous” above, emotion overrules logic one hundred percent of the time, and anyone can fall victim to some form of sexual misconduct, however innocent looking on the surface.
Does your company have a strict policy in place to prevent sexual harassment? Get started with Myco Portal today and ensure that your company policies are read and acknowledged by all employees.
Here’s to Better HR,