David G. Gabor,
Gabor is widely recognized as an expert in the area of employment,
human resources and business law. He has been called upon to
proactively represent clients in litigation, the negotiation and
drafting of contracts, handling compliance issues, the creation of
corporate infrastructure, the drafting of policies, training of
employees and leading companies towards organizational
Wagner Law Group is a nationally recognized practice in the areas of
ERISA and employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor and
human resources and investment management.
in 1996, The Wagner Law Group is dedicated to the highest standards
of integrity, excellence and thought leadership and is considered to
be amongst the nation's premier ERISA and employee benefits law
firms. The firm has seven offices across the country, providing
unparalleled legal advice to its clients, including large, small and
nonprofit corporations as well as individuals and government entities
worldwide. The Wagner Law Group's 31 attorneys, senior benefits
consultant and four paralegals combine many years of experience
in their fields of practice with a variety of backgrounds. Seven
of the attorneys are AV-rated by Martindale-Hubbell
and six are Fellows of the American
College of Employee Benefits Counsel, an invitation-only
organization of nationally recognized employee benefits
lawyers. Seven of the firm's attorneys have been
named to the prestigious Super
Lawyers list for 2017, which highlights outstanding
lawyers based on a rigorous selection process.
Wagner Law Group
Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
East Kennedy Boulevard
Tampa, FL 33602
Francisco, CA 94104
25 W. Moody Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63119
Sexual Harassment Training:
The Importance of Emphasizing Perception and Open Communication
second half of 2017 featured a plethora of allegations that
celebrities, entertainment figures, and politicians sexually harassed
employees and colleagues. It is extraordinarily troublesome that
decades after federal anti-discrimination laws were passed, employees
continue to face the unspeakable and horrific challenges posed by
sexual harassment. Some of the charges were made years after the
harassment took place. So what changed and finally empowered these
people to come forward? Why did it take so long for them to find
their voices? How should existing policies and training be changed in
light of the fact that sexual harassment remains a very real problem
in our society?
is a major part of people's lives. In fact, most people spend more time
at work than anywhere else, and many often identify themselves by
their jobs. Think about the situation of meeting people at a party.
Chances are it does not take long before your career comes up in
conversation. It is also important to note jobs provide financial
security which few are willing to put at risk. People are scared that
if they speak up about sexual harassment, they will either lose their
job or the opportunity for advancement. This is true not only for
people who experience sexual harassment, but also for those who
witness it. Far too many individuals believe that employers and
co-workers will not look favorably upon someone who reports an act of
I met with a young woman who was uncomfortable because a co-worker
was following her in the workplace and photographing her during
company sponsored yoga classes. Unfortunately, management's actions
made it clear that they did not view sexual harassment as a
significant issue. So, she felt she had two choices: (i) bring her
complaint of sexual harassment to management's attention and risk
certain retaliation, or (ii) leave the company. Because she was the
primary breadwinner for her family, she could not risk retaliation
that might leave her unemployed. As a result, she did not file a
complaint and left the company after she found a new job. In
organizations that seem to tolerate harassment, one often hears
comments from management that disparage complainers. For example, I
have heard prominent individuals in management dismiss employees
complaints saying "if you don't like your job you should
leave," or "if women are in the workplace, they need to get
used to locker room talk" or "she is just being too
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes sexual harassment
as unwanted or unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual
favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
This includes "quid pro quo" sexual harassment,
which typically involves a demand for sexual favors in exchange for
continued employment or career advancement. Harassment typically does
not include simple teasing or offhand comments. However, such
incidents may be considered harassment if they are frequent or severe
enough to create a hostile or offensive work environment. This form
of harassment is often hard to identify or dismissed as unimportant.
United States Supreme Court decided the seminal cases in 1998
regarding sexual harassment - Faragher v. City of Boca Raton and
Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth. These cases were notable
because employers were offered an incentive if they: (1) created and
promulgated sexual harassment policies with a complaint mechanism;
(2) trained their employees on the policies and complaint mechanism;
and (3) promptly investigated complaints of sexual harassment. The
Court's intention was for employees to alert their respective Human
Resources department so that problems would be resolved at the
company level and without the need for judicial intervention.
response, employers invested and continue to invest considerable
time, energy, and money in creating anti-harassment policies and
providing training. While most training programs do a good job of
educating employees on sexual harassment and describing complaint programs,
something appears to be missing. There are debilitating emotions that
derail the entire process...fear and shame.
many years of preventative training, sexual harassment remains a
significant problem. It stands to reason that current processes are
not fully effective. If employers continue to use the same approach,
it is unlikely that their efforts will have a positive affect.
needs to be changed? Supervisors and managers need to be trained
periodically to ensure that they recognize sexual harassment, even
the more subtle forms, and employees who experience or witness sexual
harassment need to be able to express themselves without being made
to feel disparagement, fear, or shame. Until these individuals know
that management understands the problem and feel safe, they will not
come forward and sexual harassment will remain hidden. Problems, when
they are not addressed promptly, often escalate.
change implemented? First, management must make a commitment to adopt
policies and procedures that give employees who experience or witness
harassment a voice. Their concerns must be heard with respect.
Furthermore, employees should feel protected from their abusers, and
safe from retaliation. Management must demonstrate by its actions that
it is committed to creating a work environment where harassment will
not be tolerated.
this message communicated to employees? If senior management and
Human Resources introduce training programs, then employees are more
likely to believe that the organization views sexual harassment
seriously. Shortly after completing training sessions for a company
that had senior management introduce each session, I received a call
from the head of Human Resources. She told me that several employees
had come forward about sexual harassment after the sessions. At
first, I did not know what to make of her call; was she upset that
employees were complaining? Instead, it was to the contrary. The head
of Human Resources called to thank me for projecting an environment
in which employees felt comfortable coming forward. Their goal was to
foster a great work environment.
goals of a training session should include gaining trust and
empowering employees to communicate with one another in an atmosphere
of respect and dignity. Some interactions can and should be resolved
directly between co-workers. For example, employees should be able to
set boundaries. If employees are able to set boundaries, then some
harassment can be avoided altogether and in an amicable manner.
However, that can only happen if people are confident that their
voices will be heard and that they will not be treated in a
dismissive or disparaging manner. They need to also believe that
there will be no retaliation.
harassment, in all of its forms, needs to be brought to the attention
of Human Resources promptly. Victims and witnesses need to be empowered
to act swiftly and absent fear of reprisal. Employers cannot resolve
problems unless they know about them. Employees must have confidence
in their Human Resources department and in senior management.
Therefore, an objective of training is to build that bridge of trust.
an ideal time to convey the appropriate message to the employees in
your organization. Imagine if your organization shifts the message
from "training exists to protect the company" to
"training exists to protect the employees." How do you
convey that message? Do your employees know and trust their Human
Resources team? If not, what can be done to help build that trust?
Consider the value of creating in-person training as a mechanism to
project the culture that you want for your organization. This may
help to eliminate the fear that prevents employees from addressing
sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.
Productive conversations both internally and externally will help
revise and refocus the message.
feel free to reach out to me regarding steps that your organization
can take regarding sexual harassment and other developments in
employment law and Human Resources. You can contact me directly at
(617) 532-8035 or by email at email@example.com. Also, I will be
co-hosting an interactive boot camp style Human Resources and employment law
training in San
Diego on January 18 and 19, along with my colleague, Amanda Scott,
the President of Solution Harbor. Together we will be leading
discussions on how to refocus the message as well as addressing other
important topics. Please click here to learn more about and
register for this important seminar.