Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Mercer PeoplePro Blog Sexual Harassment

Workplace Sexual Harassment

Let’s Start With the Facts

In 2016 there were 12,860 complaints of workplace sexual harassment filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Of those, 16.6%, or 2,134 were filed by males. The penalties paid by employers for these claims equaled $40,700,000.

When a claim goes to trial, employers lose the case 50% of the time. The average cost to defend a lawsuit, even if the employer wins, is $250,000.

A number of sexual harassment claims that have been in the national news recently. Organizations and careers have been negatively impacted. No company and no individual is immune to claims that can lead to costly payments and even to unwanted publicity.

What is Sexual Harassment?

The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or any verbal or physical harassment of a physical nature.”

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) is the Federal regulation governing sexual harassment and the EEOC is the agency that enforces Title VII. Title VII does not expressly address sexual harassment, but court cases all the way to the Supreme Court have given guidance that extends the application to sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Policy

It is possible to clearly understand the regulation and provide training to your employees and still run into issues due to violations of your own internal policy. If your policy spells out guidelines that are more specific than those under the law, you may not be violating the law but you may be violating your internal policy.

Reviewing your policy and your procedures on a regular basis is good practice to ensure you are not unintentionally creating an environment that allows a valid claim of sexual harassment.


California requires mandatory training on a regular basis – at least 2 hours of management training every 2 years. Other states strongly encourage training without specifically requiring it. There is no training requirement under Federal regulations, but in the event there is a claim, demonstrating the delivery of regular training to supervisors is a good first step in the company’s defense.

Some companies have adopted the California standard of providing training every 2 years to all managers and supervisors as a best practice. Newly promoted or hired managers and supervisors should also be provided training as soon as possible. Qualified trainers include attorneys, professors and educators with advanced degrees, and HR professionals and consultants with experience delivering training.

Mercer PeoplePro Can Help

Mercer PeoplePro has experience delivering sexual harassment training and materials ready to deliver training to your organization. Schedule an appointment today and enjoy a two-hour consultation FREE. Visit us to set up your free consultation.

Written by Mercer PeoplePro Talent Management specialist, Kathleen Huggins

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