Submitted by: Leah P. Hollis, Ed.D., Founder and President, Patricia Berkly, LLC

Despite the numerous sexual harassment claims recently made in the public, sexual harassment claims at the EEOC have actually declined over the years.  The 2000 fiscal year reported close to 16,000 sexual harassment cases.  The 2010 statistics report just under 12,000 claims with the EEOC.  The workplace might be evolving into a more women friendly environment as women are officially over 50% of the workplace. 

Nonetheless, even with the 20% decline in reported sexual harassment cases over the last decade, the single one that winds up on your door step is the one that looms the largest in your memory.  Remember Brett Favre, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback who was mired in constant allegations of sexual harassment. Bill Clinton paid $850,000 to settle the Paula Jones sexual harassment case. 

In 2008, eight women charged that two male supervisors at Aqua Tri Pool Company sexually harassed them. Aqua Tri Pool paid $463,000 to settle the case.   The cost doesn’t stop here; this number doesn’t include the loss of productivity during discovery and deposition stages. Even in the best case scenario, any organization charged with sexual harassment in court often foots $100,000 in legal bills just to defend the charge harassment, discrimination and disparate treatment.  Organizations need to be poised to stop the problem before it starts.

  • First is the human resources department staffed to offer regular training? If not, has the organization budgeted for outside trainers to educate managers and staff to keep everyone compliant? Remember, anti-harassment policies are only as strong as the people applying these policies to your workplace.
  • Maintain a culture of transparency so all staff feel encouraged to discuss the organizational culture internally, instead of filing external complaints with attorneys.
  • Take complaints seriously.  If staff think that HR will only support the organization, the staff won’t report small instances, and come forward once a small brush fire of a problem explodes into a conflagration of legal issues.

For more information on diversity training and Title VII rules compliance, visit www.diversitytrainingconsultants.com.