News that the Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain once
settled charges of sexual harassment has once again placed this
complicated issue in the public eye.
The allegations against Cain appear to have followed a pattern
we see frequently in our practice: the accused dismisses his
behavior as misinterpreted joking; the victim is placed in an
awkward position with few good options.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits
discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances including
not only unwelcome sexual advances but also offensive jokes or
remarks that rise to the level of creating a hostile work
Despite nearly 50 years of Title VII enforcement and
employer-sponsored training, workplace sexual harassment remains
pervasive. Indeed, a recent AOL Jobs study found that one in six
people have been sexually harassed in the workplace, with only 35
percent reporting the issue. Clearly many victims stay silent for
fear of retaliation. In addition to the "human" costs,
workplace harassment causes significant economic cost as well in
the form of absenteeism, employee turnover, and diminished
So what is a company to do?
We continue to advise our clients to have a clear policy that
defines what harassment is, and that establishes procedures for
employees to report problems.
In addition, we recommend companies conduct annual trainings for
all employees. These trainings need to clearly explain what
behaviors are not acceptable and give employees guidelines for
reporting when they suspect harassment or if they feel victimized.
We suggest employees sign an acknowledgement that they have
received training and that they agree to abide by the policy.
These two steps not only help create a more productive
workplace, they also help reduce an employer's legal exposure
in cases where employees bring accusations.
This alert provides general coverage of its subject area. We
provide it with the understanding that Frankfurt Kurnit Klein &
Selz is not engaged herein in rendering legal advice, and shall not
be liable for any damages resulting from any error, inaccuracy, or
omission. Our attorneys practice law only in jurisdictions in which
they are properly authorized to do so. We do not seek to represent
clients in other jurisdictions.
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A female employee traveling for her employer met a "friend" and at her motel room with him became "injured whilst engaging in sexual intercourse when a glass light fitting above the bed was pulled from its mount and fell on her."