Leaders: The Expense of Sexual Harassment

sexual harassment

The workplace is continuously dealing with sexual harassment claims and lawsuits. These impact performance, moral, and bottom line-results. This toxic behavior is poisonous to organizational heath.

“What can we do to avoid this? How can we make this better?”

Sexual Harassment = Bad Business

Here’s a story…

My first job after graduate school was working for the federal government in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). A few months into the job, a female air traffic controller sued her boss and co-workers in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), at the tune of $1 million dollars, for creating an offensive, intimidating, and hostile work environment.

She alleged that they sent pornographic photos across the screen of her computer while she was monitoring the safety of airplanes in flight and during landings.

OPM mandated sexual harassment training for all supervisors and managers in the FAA and I designed and conducted the first-ever sexual harassment training for federal employees.

That was in the 1980’s. Fast forward thirty years and the workplace is still rampant with sexual harassment claims and lawsuits.

On January 9, 2006, the largest sexual harassment lawsuit to date, at $1 billion dollars, was filed in Manhattan against Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein Services, the American branch of Dresdner Bank of Germany.

The complaint cited lewd behavior toward women, entertainment of clients at a strip club, and reduced opportunities for women who returned to the job after maternity leave.

Sexual harassment in the workplace presents an ongoing and growing risk.

Help on the Way

 Five Tips For Eliminating Sexual Harassment In the Workplace

1. Act before a problem occurs

Failure to adopt a proactive and aggressive stance on sexual harassment in the workplace can result not only in costly lawsuits (averaging $350,000 not including legal fees), but also in loss of employee morale, decline in productivity, and an erosion of an organization’s public image. It is much less expensive to implement sexual harassment policies and training than it is to be involved in one sexual harassment lawsuit.

2. Implement policies

Include sexual harassment, discrimination and dress code policies in your employee manual.

3. Educate employees

The Supreme Court has made it clear that training employees about sexual harassment is one of the ways to protect your organization in a lawsuit. Educate employees about company policies, train supervisors to deal with complaints, and provide all employees with clear examples of inappropriate behavior.

California law mandates that employers who do business in California and employ 50 or more employees provide sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors located in California
every two years.

4. Make it safe to voice complaints

Provide a reporting system and make all employees aware of it. Federal law prohibits employers from retaliating against an individual for filing or supporting charges of discrimination. Train leaders how to listen and respond appropriately to discrimination complaints.

5. Hold leaders accountable to model your company values

When leaders fail to live up to your organization values, employees become de-motivated and angry. Provide ongoing training, coaching and review of your leaders.

From a purely business perspective, an organization stands to gain if it acts proactively. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

I am curious…

What kind of harassment prevention training does your company provide or don’t provide. Have you ever experienced harassment or bullying at work? Does your organization have an effective process for handling complaints and allegations? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Judith Lindenberger
 is the President of The Lindenberger Group

She helps clients with Human Resources Consulting, Training and Coaching
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | 609.730.1049

Image Sources: redorbit.com

2 responses to “Leaders: The Expense of Sexual Harassment

  1. What sort of title indicates that its bearer is a leader? Certainly, CEO, Store Manager, or even Shift Leader indicates leadership responsibilities. But how about clerk, machine operator, or maybe custodian; are they leaders? Maybe not in the formal sense, but not everyone who exercises leadership has a title or position that would identify them as a leader. In fact, there are those in any organization who, though they have no title or position, exercise considerable influence. It’s important for formal leaders to understand that and appreciate those informal leader’s contributions.


  2. Pingback: [Confession] My Sliding Scale Of Sexual Harassment |·

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