Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sexual Harassment - The 900lb Gorilla in the Room

Sexual harassment is yet another reason companies must immediately conduct supervisor training for staff. It is the 900lb gorilla in the room most companies would rather ignore, but it is not going away. This red hot issue must be dealt with, and the sooner the better.

An Illegal Act

The very first fact that supervisors must be taught is that sexual harassment is an illegal act punishable by law. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), companies paid out over $50 million in 2002 along to settle cases brought by employees. And with the average payout estimated at around $750,000, this has become a road to wealth for workers across the country. The cases I'm personally privy to are shocking. Supervisors gone wild in workplaces throughout the country, often costing irreparable harm to the company's reputation and image in the community. One thing most supervisors fail to realize is (besides being held personally liable from a monetary point of view) they can also be brought up on criminal charges as well.

The Numbers Are Staggering

It is estimated that some 15,000 charges of sexual harassment are filed with the EEOC each and every year. And that $50 million awards figure noted above does not include employees who decide to litigate instead of settle their cases. And get this more than 90 per cent of victims never file a formal complaint or file a lawsuit. If companies are paying out over $50 million (not including litigation), and 90 per cent of employees never bring the charge up, then we have a very serious problem. This really is a 90lb gorilla in the room. Companies that choose to ignore this problem, do so to their own peril.

The New Frontier

With the world of work changing rapidly, there is an upsetting trend happening in today's workplaces. Same sex harassment is exploding in record numbers. Supervisors must be trained to spot, address, and effectively deal with this increasing problem. Some 21% of all cases filed with the EEOC yearly are same sex harassment.

Get This Training Done ASAP

Your company must immediately go on record and get clarity with workers and supervisors as to what is strictly prohibited conduct in the workplace. Explicate everything from back rubs to invading a workers space, to risqué jokes to downloading porn on the company's computers. Companies today cannot afford to leave any stone unturned. Supervisors should know the legal ramifications of their actions and have the chance to ask questions of your policy.

The company is not a baby sitter, nor should it become the relationship police. However everyone including supervisors should understand the legal backlash that may result from their careless actions. In simple terms, supervisors should just say no to office romances because workplace fraternization today is an open invitation to give away everything they have worked for in their life, including their reputation. Companies need to conduct sexual harassment training every year at the very least, in order to keep it fresh on the mind of every employee. The strategy being to correct the harassment before it becomes a major problem.


Sexual harassment is an illegal act punishable by law, and is yet another reason companies must immediately conduct supervisor training for staff. Companies today cannot ignore this 900lb gorilla sitting in the room. Therefore, they must be proactive in providing clarity on this red hot issue.

© 2009 Cubie Davis King. All rights reserved.

Dr. Cubie Davis King, Ph.D is a Training & Performance Improvement Technologist, with a resume which includes 9 years military service, and executive positions with Xerox & CitiGroup, Dr. King has won top performance awards at every level in his storied career. He heads FIT (The Foundation for Improving Talent & Performance). His latest work is the SuperVisors Core Training 1.0 System .Dr. King is an adjunct professor at National University in San Diego, CA. To reach him go directly to Dr. King's website

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