Who do you report harassment to if the harasser is the CEO?

Have a way for EVERYONE to report harassment.

I wrote back in 2015 about the importance of having multiple ways for an employee to report sexual harassment. This was based on another post I had done in 2011. In 2015 I said:

“…it is important to have multiple ways an employee can report harassment. With many companies this is reporting to HR. However, some companies don’t have HR, or as I wrote about, sometimes HR reports to the harasser who happens to be the president of the company. In those situations where there is no easy alternative to reporting to HR or different levels of management then you need to get creative. You may need to have a consultant, an EAP, an attorney or a board member that an employee can file a complaint with if they don’t feel they can follow the route suggested in the policy.”

It is a sad state of affairs that in today’s world I have to continue to right about the importance of a sexual harassment policy. Here is another such case that shows how employees may be left with no alternative.

Shocking and sexually explicit behavior

Richard Cohen, of Fisher Broyles, writes about a case in which the owner of the company was the sexual harasser. Cohen reported the EEOC press release which said:

“The EEOC alleged that owner … sexually harassed female employees to a point where one worker was forced to quit and other female victims were fired. The EEOC investigation found that [the owner] repeatedly made lewd sexual comments to and about his female employees, including telling offensive sexual jokes, using derogatory terms for female genitalia, and commenting on women’s breast sizes and body shapes.”

The EEOC brought a judgment of $750,000 against the company, even though the company has filed for bankruptcy. They are also requiring the company to overhaul its sexual harassment policy and procedures. In addition, if after the reorganization from bankruptcy, if the owner is in anyway associated with the company, the company will have to report to the EEOC so they can watch for any sexual harassment activity. The suit was filed with the EEOC by five employees.

What is the bottomline?

I have no way of telling what the effect of the owner’s behavior was on the business to cause it to file for bankruptcy. However, it is a sure bet that the reputation of the company has been sullied due to his behavior, and if he remains associated with it, recruiting for new employees will be difficult. Additionally, suppliers will be hesitant to return if indeed his behavior contributed at all to the bankruptcy. Obviously they are going to have to pay off a $750,000 bill to the EEOC that might have been used to keep the company solvent or help in the reorganization.
These women went to the EEOC because there was apparently no internal outlet for complaining about the boss. As my quote above says there has to be an outlet for someone to complain about the boss. Remember that when you are drafting or revising your sexual harassment policy and include who can be contacted in your handbook. It just might save the company in the long run.

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