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Are Sexual Harassment Laws Effective?

Around the late 70’s the first sexual harassment case was recognized in the court system.  It came after a woman was fired for declining her boss’s sexual advances.  The judges ruled that the boss violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which protected employees from discrimination.  It wasn’t until 1980, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defined what sexual harassment was in the workplace.  This included unwanted sexual advances, crude comments or behavior, which creates a hostile work environment.

The first successful case was in 1988, when Lois Jenson sued the mining company that she work for because women that worked there were attacked, shown pornography, lewdly propositioned, and groped by the male employees.  Jenson reported this harassment to the managers of the company but the used the “boys will be boys,” defense for their actions.  After a decade battle, she and fourteen other women won three point six million dollars.  This made employers how serious sexual harassment can be in the workplace.

There is a thin line between being a friendly and pleasant person to your coworkers and harassing them.  It is all right to comment on someone’s appearance, but you should never comment on a woman’s legs or breast.  It’s mostly common sense stuff that will keep employees and bosses out of trouble when it comes to sexual harassment.  Another thin line it relationships on the work place, it does happen and most companies now have the people sign a contract saying that they won’t sue if the relationship ends badly.  This protects the employees and company from sexual harassment lawsuits.  And since these lawsuit average about a quarter a millions dollars per suit, having training and documents like this help the company and it’s employees.

In 1998, the Supreme Court determined that companies are reliable financially for sexual harassment suits even if they don’t know about it.  This eliminated the defense that employers can’t be liable if they don’t see the harassment or are unaware of the issue.  Since sexual harassment tarnishes a company’s reputation and can cripple them financially, Human Recourse Managers have written strict policies on sexual harassment and some have gone as far as giving training to all the employees of the company.  The enforcement of these polices and training, complaints and lawsuits have fallen over the years and have improved workplaces harassment.  Between 1997 and 2007, the complaints have fallen from sixteen hundred complaints to around twelve hundred because of training and polices in place.

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