Sexual Conduct in the Workplace

In comparison to other human resource issues, sexual conduct in the workplace is a particularly critical one because there are legal implications.  It is critical that employees know what constitutes sexual harassment, the organization’s policy regarding sexual harassment, and what the law and courts have determined about sexual behavior in the workplace.  There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. It is important to understand the difference between the two.  Employees and managers need to follow the organization’s guidelines, be clear about their responsibility, and know how to respond to a situation involving sexual harassment appropriately and effectively.  Knowledge of what is and is not sexual harassment helps to minimize unfounded fears about the subject, and serves as a preventive measure designed to maintain a harassment-free work environment.  A look at gender communication styles and a discussion of the full scope regarding sexual/romantic behavior at work broadens the perspective of this session.  This highly engaging workshop is designed to discuss this somewhat sensitive topic via an interactive, down-to-earth, non-threatening approach.

Benefits Upon completion of this program, participants will be able to:

  • Legally define sexual harassment, both quid pro quo and hostile work environment
  • Apply a three-part test to establish without a doubt whether or not a situation or circumstance constitutes sexual harassment
  • Identify the laws pertinent to sexual harassment
  • Understand the most up-to-date court rulings on sexual harassment and implications for the workplace
  • Understand key concepts such as a “reasonable person” vs. a “reasonable woman” standard for assessing a potential situation of sexual harassment
  • Identify which behaviors constitute sexual harassment (e.g., joking of a sexual nature, pornographic or sexually-oriented pictures, unwelcome comments, touching of a sexual nature, workplace dating, etc.)
  • Recognize under what conditions romantic behaviors are acceptable in the workplace
  • Know what to do if they are being sexually harassed
  • Know what to do if they receive a complaint of sexual harassment
  • Distinguish between sexual harassment and gender discrimination
  • Apply knowledge and understanding to actual case studies of sexual harassment
  • Know relevant court cases and potential consequences (e.g., supervisors can be held personally liable financially in cases where they did not address a situation of sexual harassment appropriately)
  • Understand their responsibility and the responsibility of managers with regard to sexual harassment issues

Sample Agenda:

  • An introductory assessment of participants’ current knowledge level and understanding of sexual behavior in the workplace
  • Federal and state laws that govern sexual harassment
  • The legal definition of sexual harassment, quid pro quo, and hostile work environment
  • How to recognize quid pro quo and hostile work environment harassment
  • The role of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state governing agencies
  • A three-point test to determine whether or not a situation or behavior qualifies as sexual harassment
  • How to determine when a behavior or circumstance constitutes sexual harassment and under what conditions
  • Clarification with regard to the “gray areas” of concern such as dating, compliments, types of joking, innuendos, etc.
  • Gender discrimination vs. sexual harassment
  • Review of the organization’s sexual harassment policy
  • Review of historical and current court cases and implications
  • Review of key concepts; e.g., “reasonable woman” vs. “reasonable person” test of sexual harassment
  • What constitutes “unwelcome” behavior
  • Skill application exercises: Discussion of actual case studies of sexual harassment
  • Steps for preventing and addressing sexual harassment
  • Who is covered under the Civil Rights Act of 1964/1991
  • Historical review of gender discrimination and sexual harassment
  • Explanations provided to commonly asked questions such as, “Can I ask a co-worker out on a date?”
  • What constitutes third-party sexual harassment
  • Potential personal liability for supervisors who fail to address situations of sexual harassment
  • What to do if you receive a complaint of sexual harassment
  • Tips for managers; e.g., how to respond when listening to a complaint, key questions to ask, and importance of documentation
  • Video: “The Issue is Respect”
    • Specific true-to-life scenarios with comments by attorneys; clarification of gray areas and key concepts
  • Steps for responding to a complaint of sexual harassment
  • Gender communication issues as related to sexual behavior at work
  • Video: “The Power Dead-Even Rule”
    • Male and female communication styles
    • Pat Hines, the presenter on the tape, is a foremost authority on male/female communication style differences and the impact of these differences at work
  • Managers, employees, and the organization’s responsibility with regard to sexual behavior at work
  • Closing: Focus on knowledge and skills gained

Time Frame:

One day.  Content can be adjusted accordingly for a shorter program.

Methods of Instruction:

A variety of innovative methods are employed (lecturettes, large and small group discussion, small group exercises, role play, scripted scenarios, simulation exercises, interaction with class) in order to provide a variety of teaching techniques designed to address different learning styles, and to foster a safe, open forum for discussion and learning.

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