Harassment: How NOT to become TOAST!


Last weeks post (Click here to read) was a lesson in the two types of harassment issues that you as an employer are most likely to deal with:

  1. Hostile work environment
  2. Quid pro quo

Those two forms of harassment were defined and described for you.  In the event that a claim is brought against you (the employer), two aspects will be reviewed to determine your liability.

1. Did the affected employee issue a complaint of harassment and then suffer a “tangible employment action” soon thereafter?
2. In the event of no tangible employment action, are you able to present an “affirmative defense”?

A tangible employment action may be any of the following:

  • Denying a raise
  • Termination of employment
  • Denying access to training
  • Demotion

Bottom line, if the complaining employee suffered a tangible employment action, you as the employer will likely be on the hook for liability because it will be viewed as retaliation.

An affirmative defense demonstrates that the employer took “reasonable care” to prohibit harassment.  Following are components of reasonable care:

  • A comprehensively written harassment policy
  • Regular communication of the policy
  • Antiharassment training
  • Investigation of complaints
  • Appropriate action taken with perpetrators when necessary
  • Periodic follow-up with the victims

If the above components are in place and the accusing employee does not avail him/herself of the proper procedures, then the employer will likely not be found liable. 


Any question as to why PREVENTION is absolutely imperative?

Now that you’re ready to listen, next week’s post will include the FIRST step toward prevention, and how you can avoid the nightmare of harassment!

Tune in next Thursday, same blog time, same blog channel for HR Thursday!

All of the facts and stats on todays post are taken from a 2010 article in Dental Economics by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of  Bent Ericksen & Associates

Comment on 12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team

As an employee, I cannot stress the importance of #4 enough. Recently, I was working on a project – my laptop was about 6 years old. It kept crashing every time I tried to do the most basic thing in PowerPoint. I wanted to throw it out the window. In order to complete the project on time, I brought in my personal computer. Needless to say, I complained loudly and got new equipment, but it should have NEVER gotten to that point! Penny wise and pound foolish!

Urine, rocks and ruts. What could this post possibly be about?

I went to camp 5 of these 100 years as a youth, and then at least 3 more as an adult!

When I saw this, I realized that most of the important knowledge I have about leadership was developed while I attended Camp Lo Mia in Arizona as a youth. Here’s just 3 lessons learned:

1. You have to take in as much, or more than you put out.

Seriously? Pee in my water bottle?

We can get mentally and emotionally dehydrated if we over-extend ourselves.  To ensure there’s enough knowledge, energy and creativity to withdraw from our leadership account, we must make deposits regularly.

2. Challenges are more enjoyable when you take time to rock-hop.

Rock-hopping? What’s that?

To achieve your goals, you have to find a little time for enjoyment.  Success comes, and leadership is developed during the process of the challenge–not at the moment of it’s completion.

3. Bumps can be blessings in disguise.

Don’t avoid the bumps, they may be blessings….

We are trained to think that bumps and ruts in the road of our leadership journey are obstacles to be avoided.  However, when we least expect it, those bumps are often our greatest blessings.

Attending girls camp every summer as a youth not only taught me how to build fires, administer first aid, cook over an open flame, tie knots and navigate by the sun and stars; it taught me true leadership principles that still apply today!

HR Thursday: The Nightmare of Harassment Claims

Have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and watch this VIDEO before reading any further….

How can you keep a harassment claim from happening to you?  PREVENTION IS THE KEY.  Employers often find themselves in these situations because they didn’t take the necessary steps to prevent harassment from occurring, or stop the behavior when it happens.

Understanding Harassment.  Most harassment claims generally take one of two forms:

  1. Hostile work environment
  2. Quid pro quo

Most harassment allegations fall under the “hostile work environment” category.  This is typically defined as “conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”.

Hostile environment harassment can include, but is not limited to:

  • Indecent propositions

  • Inappropriate discussion of sexual activities

  • Obscene or discriminatory jokes

  • Displaying sexually suggestive or racial pictures

  • Crude and offensive language

  • Ethnic slurs

  • Pranks

  • Negative stereotyping

These situations rise to the level of harassment when it is severe and pervasive and the employee feels offended, intimidated, or fearful as a result of another person’s action.

The other type of harassment is referred to as quid pro quo.  This type of harassment is alleged less frequently, and occurs when an individual is asked to submit to sexual conduct and perceives his/her job is conditioned on compliance.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute “quid pro quo” harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment

  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual

  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment


All of the facts and stats on todays post are taken from a 2010 article in Dental Economics by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of  Bent Ericksen & Associates

HR Thursday in the next few weeks will focus on what you as an employer can do to prevent a claim against you.

Tune in next week for another HR Thursday!  Same blog time, same blog channel.  

And don’t forget to have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T while you’re navigating your fishbowl!

12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team

Bent Ericksen & Associates has been the recognized leader and “most trusted name in the profession” of human resources and employment law for over 25 years.  They have surveyed hundreds of team members, and the following list indicates the first 6 aspects of what team members say would contribute to their productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job:

  1. Ethically sound business principles and quality services
  2. A consistent management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm, consistently applied and clearly explained in writing
  3. A pleasant and harmonious work environment with minimum stress
  4. Adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies
  5. Competent, supportive and compatible team members
  6. Assistance in learning:

  • To become more skilled

  • To develop communication skills
  • To make decisions
  • To take initiative

If you’re an employer, are you surprised by what’s on this list so far?  How are you doing at providing for your team what’s on this list?  In what areas do you feel you lack?

If you’re an employee, how do you feel about this list?  Do you agree so far?  Would you change the order in any way?

Can you see how important it is for the manager/owner of the business to be on the same page with the rest of the team?

Tune in to my next post—same blog time, same blog channel—for the bottom 6 on the list!