Sexual Harassment Issue - How to handle?

A friend who is a manager at a different company asked me about an employment law issue today, and I'd like to get your input. Here's her situation: Two employees at her company had become romantically involved and were taking moments throughout the day for hugs, kisses, flirting etc. Employee A decided to end things, but Employee B wants to continue being an item. Employee B has been harassing Employee A (I don't remember exactly - letters, phone calls, talks at work, stuff like that) AND Employee B is a manager (although not Employee A's direct supervisor).

My friend just became aware of the situation this week. She plans to talk to Employee A tomorrow, along with some other employees who witnessed the alleged harassment. On Friday she'll be talking to her senior managment. After she finishes the investigation and meets with her senior managment, she's planning to implement the first step of their disciplinary action.

From afar, it seems pretty textbook, but because I've only been in HR for 4 years and I (thank God!) haven't had to deal with this directly yet, I told her I'd run it by all of you for input and/or advice. Thoughts?


  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added

  • "Employee B has been harassing Employee A (I don't remember exactly - letters, phone calls, talks at work, stuff like that) AND Employee B is a manager (although not Employee A's direct supervisor). "

    A compay needs to have a harassment (or I should say, Anti-Harassment) policy in place with procedures guidelines outlining the stages from report, investigation to conclusion and then action. If your friend's company does not, I would still advise that they study any boiler plate and go from there.

    I quoted the operable situation from your post. Since the kissing and hugging in the workplace was not previously addressed (which it should have been) start with the allegation of harrassment now. Who is making the allegation -- Employee A or other witnessing employees? Is it just gossip or incidents?

    Employee B is a manager and can be held to higher standards, and it does not matter that the dating was with a non-report. He/She can be told in no uncertain terms to stop it -- whatever "it" is and should it reach the level of harassment , the manager can be advised of the consequences -- up to and including termination.

    The problem though is that I really do not have enough real information to help out much. But wanted to take a shot at it, as I have handled a few of these situations and they tend to morph into something different when the facts are separated from the chatter.

    Good luck. Hope it helps.

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 09-11-08 AT 12:53PM (CST)[/font][br][br]That does help, thanks. Unfortunately, I don't have any additional information either. She was trying to keep things very confidential, and thus only told me the bare bones minimum.
  • Sounds like a pretty classic case of hostile environment. Your friend's company would be well advised to take this very seriously.
  • Don't forget to get Employee B's side of the story. It doesn't sound like B has much ground to stand on, but you might be surprised.

    Good luck!

  • Its always "B" causing the trouble isn't it? A and sometimes C are generally innocent.
  • You are very lucky to have been in HR for four years and not had this happen to you yet.
    You do need to get both sides of the story...employee A, employee B and hopefully, somewhere in the middle of this....the truth.

    If you find the manager is the culprit here, your company is much more exposed to litigation.

    In my conversation with the manager, I'd advise that he is held to a higher standard of employment and even though he is not the direct supervisor of the employee, his position in the company could be considered (by the employee) as a threat to her job or his advances construed as harassing behavior.

    If the employee wants to end the relationship with the manager, that is her perogative and she should be left in peace,provided she is not contributing to this behavior. It should be made perfectly clear to the manager that this behavior will not be tolerated.

    By the way, you should not tolerate romantic displays of affection in the workplace under any circumstances, welcome or not.

    I've had to address several cases of romantic involvement in the workplace and most of them went bad very quickly and caused all kinds of turmoil. One or both parties usually ends up leaving their job because of the uncomfortable situation it causes when the romance goes sour.

  • Yes, I am fortunate to have not had this happen to me/our company in the four years I've been here!

    While I don't have details, I know that my friend has already addressed this issue and it appears that everything went well. (She talked with all parties involved). If I get a more detailed update, I'll let you know. Thanks as always for your input everyone!
  • Any display of romantic overtures should not be going on in the workplace, and you should have a policy against this. If 2 ee's are dating, no one should know that they are by observing them, only if they told them.
    If you don't have an anti-harassment policy, you should implement one a.s.a.p. letting all employees know what sexual harassment is, how to address it, who to go to with the problem, what steps will be taken if sexual harrassment is reported, etc. It is not only necessary to have this policy, but to review this policy with all employees every year. You should have proof, such as employee signatures, that the policy was reviewed with them and the date reviewed. This helps the employer out if a lawsuit arises out of a sexual harassment claim, because the employee cannot claim they did not know what to do about the situation.
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