THE SHOP

March '18

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56 THE SHOP MARCH 2018 Y esterday, Jake complimented Sarah on her sexy new hairdo. Today, he patted Marianne on the shoulder and thanked her for wearing a revealing new outfit. As for Deborah, the regional vendor rep: Jake has been pressing her for a date to get better acquainted. Maybe Jake is a top-performing employee, and maybe the women always seem to play along with his chatter. But, the fact remains that Jake is a ticking time bomb. His com- ments are creating a hostile work environ- ment that can affect morale and lead to a costly sexual harassment lawsuit. The recent nationwide headlines about misdeeds in high places should remind everyone that a toxic workplace can threaten the bottom line. "Ignoring the issue of sexual harassment can lead to disaster on many levels," says Joseph P. Harkins, a shareholder in the Washington, D.C. office of San Francisco- based Littler, the world's largest employ- ment law practice representing manage- ment (littler.com). "Businesses can be subject to costly financial settlements, dam- aging morale issues and negative publicity." BEWARE THE RISK People often think of sexual harassment in terms of quid pro quo: a supervisor offers someone a job or a raise in return for a sexual act. But, in today's workplace, most sexual harassment stems from a much more insidious problem, experts say. "Statistically, most complaints in recent years are not for quid pro quo harassment, but for environment claims such as inappro- priate comments and jokes," says Harkins. That's why Jake, in our opening scenario, poses such a threat. The issue has become more acute as employees have become more willing to speak up about people like Jake. "We have come to a tipping point in society, where people are starting to believe PREVENTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT Steps toward creating a respectful workplace. By Phillip M. Perry The recent nationwide headlines about misdeeds in high places should remind everyone that a toxic workplace can threaten businesses in many ways. Ignoring the issue of sexual harassment can lead to disaster on many levels.

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