Monday, March 21, 2016

Baby Got Back - Not Appropriate for the Workplace

While we may all giggle at Sir Mix-A-Lot's lyrics, it's fair to say your workplace should neither sound like nor have the atmosphere of his song, Baby Got Back.  What may be funny in a song is neither kosher nor acceptable in the workplace.  If you've got a workplace that has more than 15 employees, you are exposed to  liability under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects against Harassment based upon a protected class, including race, gender, ethnic group, nationality, and age.  There are several outfits that provide training for sexual harassment, and the law firm this blogger works for is one of them. We see a lot of great workplaces fall prey to just not knowing the rules and getting into trouble because of it.  So, we decided we would offer training to employers on harassment cases, including sexual harassment, other types of harassment, and disability harassment. 

The law treats these types of harassment in a similar manner, but this post will focus on sexual harassment.  Because it is typically federal law, we have to look at law from several jurisdictions.  Mainly, though, in Indiana, the Seventh Circuit law will be the most applicable.  The main thing one can say about federal law in the Seventh Circuit is, the range of conduct that IS AND IS NOT determined to be found sexual harassment is varied.  There is no easy template to follow. However, there are several things you can do to protect yourself, whether you are an employer or an employee.

To protect yourself from the harm of sexual harassment in the workplace, as an employer, you need to ensure that you have a policy that has been reviewed by an attorney. You should ensure that you provide adequate training to employees. You need to ensure that you have adequate and confidential grievance procedures, and you need to ensure you are not a part of the problem. You should also ensure you take consistent and fair action regarding accusations of sexual harassment in the workplace to protect yourself in any potential future suits. Likewise, an employee must report any harassment, follow the grievance procedure outlined, and document any and all instances of harassment. Failure to do so could result in your potentially foregoing claims due to failure to report. Some Seventh Circuit Cases were denied to Plaintiffs (employees who brought suit) because they failed to report close in time to the harassment, which muddied the claim for the Court.

The bottom line is, do not let your workplace be a Sir-Mix-A-Lot song.  Stick up for yourself. Baby Got Back is a song for a bar, not your office, fire station, police department or factory floor. 

*The opinions expressed are of the blogger only and we're not intended as legal advice or as an avenue to engage in a lawyer-client relationship.

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