Sexual Harassment by a Manager
A good manager can be of great benefit to a company. They can motive their employees to be more productive and efficient throughout the workday. Moreover, employees will enjoy coming to work each day when they know that they have a manager who respects them as a person.
When a manager makes unwanted sexual advances, comments, or gestures to their employees, this is an example of sexual harassment by a manager. It can make an employee uncomfortable, distracted, and emotional. Their productivity will decline significantly, and they may find themselves coming up with more excuses to miss work or they might just quit entirely.
Employees should not have to endure such treatment at work. They should report such behavior to their company or to an outside agency if they want a resolution to the situation. These situations can be difficult, which is why it is wise to hire a sexual harassment lawyer who can help an employee determine how they should proceed to address such a difficult circumstance.
What is Sexual Harassment by a Manager?
When a manager approaches their employee or a group of employees with unwanted sexual advances, comments, or contact, it demonstrates sexual harassment. It also does not have to be direct interactions, as a manager’s failure to act when they see sexual harassing behavior occurring can also make them liable for the problem.
Managers can also help contribute to a culture of harassment by telling inappropriate or sexual jokes with co-workers that make others uncomfortable. Or the manager could encourage such behavior by praising an inappropriate cartoon posted publicly rather than reprimand anyone.
Specific examples of sexual harassment by a manager may include the following:
- Inappropriately leaning too close to talk to someone at their desk
- Unwelcome touching
- Inappropriate language, dirty jokes
- Consistently asking what a person does with their personal time
- Phoning or emailing an employee at home or off-hours
- Quid pro quo, expecting something in exchange for a promotion or pay raise
- Continually asking an employee out on dates
- Posting sexually explicit photos around the office
- Sending out sexual jokes via company email
- Making remarks that an employee has made clear offends them
- Demoting an employee for denying their sexual advances
There is a growing problem with men and women of authority in companies and the way they treat their employees. A study found that one in three employees said they have witnessed a person with authority take advantage of a person with less authority.
It is a problem that impacts men and women almost equally, as around 29 percent of women and 20 percent of men report they have experienced unwanted advances from a manager. Those numbers increase when dealing with younger men and women between 18 and 34 years of age.
It appears that sexual harassment has been more detrimental to women’s careers than men, as about one in four women report that their career has suffered because they refused an advance from a manager.
What Laws Prohibit Sexual Harassment by a Manager?
Sexual harassment by anyone at a company is illegal. No one has the right to make unwanted advances on an employee, nor does a company have the authority to terminate a person if they file a complaint. There are specific federal and state laws that prohibit harassment based on multiple factors.
At the federal level, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits the sexual harassment of employees from co-workers, including anyone with authority over those employees. The law covers companies with 15 or more employees. At the state level, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) prohibits harassment in the workplace of protected categories including sex, race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age, or national origin. Finally, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) offers protections for employees from sexual harassment by employers and co-workers.
What Should I Do When Confronted by Sexual Harassment by a Manager?
When confronted with sexual harassment, a person can feel overwhelmed and confused. They may not understand what steps to take or how to handle the situation. There are several things a worker can do when faced with this situation. Those steps include:
- Document the behavior: It is crucial to have sufficient evidence of a pattern of behavior when building a case or filing a complaint. When a sexual harassment incident occurs, the person targeted should detail the events that took place, including what was said or done, when it occurred, where it happened, and any other relevant details. These notes should be kept in a safe location. The worker should write down the information immediately after the incident so that the details are fresh.
- Go to the boss’ superior: If the manager is the one who is doing the harassing, it is difficult to go directly to one’s manager to complain about it. The next move would be to go to the manager’s supervisor to explain the situation and file a complaint.
- Talk to human resources: All companies should have policies and procedures in place that address sexual harassment in the workplace. An employee should find out what those policies are and follow them. In most instances, it will involve speaking with a human resources (HR) representative and lodging a complaint. Once notified, HR will be under an obligation to investigate. If a company does not have an HR department, it should have a person who is serving in that role.
- Hire a lawyer: When a person is being routinely harassed by a manager, it could place them in a particularly vulnerable position. Bringing a sexual harassment lawyer on board early in the process can help explain what to do next and how to address the problem.
If the company fails to address the situation or has decided to retaliate against the employee by terminating them or reducing their hours, the next step is to take the matter to an outside government agency. The employee can file a federal case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
If an employee wishes to handle the situation at the state level, those in Pennsylvania can file a case with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC); those in New Jersey can file a case with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within the Office of the Attorney General.
If a worker is going to act, they should do so quickly, as the statute of limitations to file a claim with either the EEOC or the PHRC is 300 days and is two years in New Jersey.
Do I Still Have a Case Even if I Did Not Report the Harassment?
Given the unique situation of an employee being harassed by a manager who has direct authority over them, they are under no legal obligation to file a complaint against that individual with the company. The employee is still protected should the company proceed with any retaliatory action against them.
A company can still be held liable if the employee is affected by any adverse employment action.
What can I Seek in a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit?
When an employee files a lawsuit against a company because of its lack of action, they can seek monetary and non-monetary rewards. Among the items they can seek to recover:
- Lost wages: Given the fact that the harassment is coming from a manager, an employee might have a difficult time coming to work and may take extra days off or even quit. They can attempt to recoup those lost wages in a lawsuit.
- Medical expenses: Depending on the frequency of the harassment, it could have an emotional and mental toll on the employee. It could also manifest into legitimate medical problems. These issues could require medical treatment, which costs money. A lawsuit can seek compensation for these expenses.
- Emotional distress: Having to endure harassment by a superior can be emotionally traumatic and difficult to handle. It can cause a person to lose sleep or experience other issues. A lawyer will determine a specific amount to compensate for these problems.
- Pain and suffering: As emotional trauma can be a side effect of harassment, so can pain and suffering. An employee can seek a lump sum to compensate for that pain and suffering.
- Reinstatement: If an employee decides to quit their job because they could not handle the harassment or if they were terminated for filing a complaint or their shift or responsibilities were reduced, they can seek to have their job or original shift reinstated.
- Non-monetary requests: A worker might be able to request their old position back; however, they may not wish to return to a company given the circumstances that led to their departure. As part of a lawsuit, the worker can request that changes take place at the company to ensure that this type of harassment does not happen again or if it does, it will be handled quickly and decisively.
There are circumstances in which a person logistically can no longer be reinstated to their old position. Too much time may have passed, so that job is no longer available, or the person may not wish to return to the company. In those cases, they can also seek compensation to train them for a new job or to pay for a job placement company that will help them find a new job.
What is a Manager’s Responsibility in Dealing with Sexual Harassment?
A manager’s responsibilities include taking care of their employees. Although they might not engage in sexually harassing behavior themselves, it is still up to them to protect their employees from enduring such behavior. Since the manager’s behavior will dictate the type of environment they supervise, there are steps they can take that will help discourage harassment from taking place. Those steps include the following:
- Maintaining a work environment free of sexual harassment
- Being able to identify sexual harassment
- Preventing sexual harassment incidents
- Understanding federal and state laws and the company’s policy
- Creating and maintaining a positive, productive workplace
- Modeling appropriate behavior
By establishing an environment that feels safe and protected, it should discourage those who might engage in sexual harassment from participating in it. In addition, establishing and advertising a simple procedure for reporting any sexual harassment claims should give those who have been targeted the confidence to come forward when they believe there is a problem.
A key aspect of that is a swift and decisive response from the employer to any complaint of sexual harassment. When an employee makes a complaint about sexual harassment, a manager should take it seriously and take the following steps:
- Conduct proper investigations immediately.
- Take prompt and effective corrective action.
- Take appropriate steps to eliminate behavior that might be perceived as sexual harassment.
- Maintain confidentiality, except for disclosure reasonably required by the investigation.
- Contact HR with concerns and complaints.
- Ensure the victim fully recovers from the incident.
How can Management Prevent Sexual Harassment at Their Company?
Along with establishing an environment of openness and appropriate behavior toward co-workers, management can take other, more meaningful steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in their company. Those preventive measures include the following:
- Develop and publish a clear and concise policy as to how the company handles sexual harassment and what employees should do if confronted with it.
- Develop ways to inform all new employees, including those in management, about the sexual harassment policy.
- Conduct annual sexual harassment awareness training for all employees.
- Educate employees as appropriate.
- Create and maintain a positive, productive workplace.
- Model appropriate behavior.
- Observe interactions in the workplace.
- Confront harassers.
- Stop harassing behaviors immediately.
A manager has a dual role in acting appropriately at work while protecting their employees. The better they are at keeping the workplace open and hospitable, the better it will be for everyone who works at the company.
Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Help Employees Facing Sexual Harassment from Their Managers
If you are being sexually harassed by your manager, it can be a pretty lonely feeling and quite debilitating. You may believe that you have no recourse and even your own company has abandoned you. Do not despair, as the Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. will stand up for you. Our lawyers have extensive experience in litigating sexual harassment claims, and we will help you get the resolution you deserve. Call us today at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and Cherry Hill, South Jersey, as well as in New York.