When Love isn’t in the Air
Roses are red
Violets are blue
I’m prepared to deal with unwanted Valentines,
How about you?
It’s almost Valentine’s Day! Yes, that day when “love is in the air,” – and profit on the minds of flower, jewelry and greeting card companies. All kidding aside, Valentine’s Day does provide a suitable segue for employment lawyers to remind employers of the problems caused by claims and controversies involving issues of sexual harassment.
Of course, issues arising from sexual harassment (which is a form of gender discrimination) are rarely associated with issues involving love, dating, or other activities we associate with voluntary relationships. Instead, sexual harassment involves those circumstances where an employee is not open to the advances, overtures or sexually motivated behavior of a supervisor or a coworker.
While sexual harassment often involves an abuse of power by someone holding a power differential over the victim, sexual harassment occurs when any employee is subject to unwelcome sexual conduct or comments whether by a supervisor, a co-worker, or even a customer or other third party with whom your company does business. This can occur in multiple formats, including, but not limited to, same sex harassment.
Regardless of the source or format, an employer has a duty to investigate complaints of sexual harassment and, if needed, to clip the misguided Cupid’s wings.
If you think Valentine’s Day is a costly holiday, it pales in comparison to the potential costs (productivity, time and money) of a sexual harassment claim. Employers should be vigilant in providing sexual harassment training to educate their work force about the perils of sexual harassment, (including the line between acceptable and unacceptable conduct) and recognize the loss of productivity which occurs when these issues permeate the work place.
The law requires that any complaints involving unwelcome conduct constituting harassment must be investigated and resolved promptly. Allowing these issues to linger is a sure way to lose the love of your employees – as well as business, profits and workplace morale.
Valentine’s Day is a good reminder to make sure your workplace policies and procedures are up to managing the slings and arrows of love’s misfortune.