Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) September 11, 2015 - Sexual harassment on the job does not just happen in larger businesses. It may happen in a small business environment with a limited number of employees.
Small business owners need to be as aware of sexual harassment laws as those who run and manage larger corporations. Not knowing about the prevailing legal ramifications of not dealing with sexual harassment on the job can lead to a major legal headache down the road.
“Federally speaking, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, usually referred to as Title VII, governs not only work-related discrimination such as religion or race, but also sexual harassment. Most of the states also have anti-discrimination laws on their books that ban sexual harassment in the workplace,” said respected Chicago employment attorney, Timothy Coffey. “And these laws do not just apply to big business.”
In situations where the federal law is not necessarily applicable because a business does not have 15 or more employees, a state law may be in existence that is directly relevant. It is incumbent on small business owners to know the laws that apply to their particular situation. It is important to remember that sexual harassment does not just involve a male harassing a female, but may also involve a female harassing a male. The law also applies in cases of same-sex harassment.
Title VII directly applies to businesses employing 15 or more workers. Not all small businesses have that many workers. However, that does not mean the owner and/or manager is free to ignore sexual harassment laws. To stay on top of the law in a given area and to find out where to obtain training visit the State Sexual Harassment Training page
“It needs to be clearly understood that Title VII does not bar all conduct of a sexual nature in a workplace. It bars only unwelcome sexual conduct that results in the creation of an offensive, hostile and/or intimidating workplace,” Coffey said.
Determining what constitutes unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace is generally assessed by investigating all aspects of any reported incidents and determining whether the average, reasonable person would regard the conduct to be offensive. The affected worker must also demonstrate the conduct is not welcome, either by stating so clearly or acting in such a clear manner that shows the conduct is not welcome. An example would be removing a supervisor’s hand in an instance of unlawful touching.
Situations where Title VII does not apply may include, but not be limited to: firing a worker for having a consensual relationship with another worker or a manager, or an employee being chosen for a promotion because he or she is having an affair with the boss.
“Sexual harassment claims are usually categorized as either ‘quid pro quo’ or ‘hostile work environment,’” Coffey said. In a case of quid pro quo, the situation may involve an individual in a position of authority demanding sexual favors from a subordinate in exchange for keeping their job. In a situation where there is a hostile work environment, the harassment tends to involve behavior interfering with the performance of a worker’s job or actions that create a hostile and offensive atmosphere.
It is incumbent upon a small business owner to investigate any claims of sexual harassment brought to his or her attention. If the owner does not investigate, they may be found liable under Title VII.
THE COFFEY LAW OFFICE, P.C.
351 W. Hubbard Street, Suite 602
Chicago, IL 60654