Remember that movie from the 80s, Flashdance? Back then, it was noteworthy that the main character was a welder because it’s not a career path traditionally pursued by women.
Thirty four years later (yes, it’s been that long. Grab a beer), women are still a rarity in trades industry. In fact, less than 3% of construction workers are female. In order to avoid potential legal liability, it’s essential to understand what constitutes sexual harassment.
The Difference Between Banter and Sexual Harassment
Depending on whom you ask, there will be a long list of different opinions about what are acceptable comments in the workplace. This blog is not about those.
It is one thing to make jokes among friends, but sexual harassment is a monster on its own. And it doesn’t just apply to women. Men have been victims of this type of behavior, if they’re not perceived to be masculine enough. To avoid crossing that line, it’s important to know the following:
Hostile Work Environment vs. Quid Pro Quo
There are two types of sexual harassment under which an employer can be sued: hostile work environment, and quid pro quo.
A hostile work environment exists when a person insists on hitting on someone, asking them on dates, touching them, making sexual comments, or any combination of the above when it is clear the advances are unwanted. It doesn’t take a genius to know when you’re flirting and when you’re just being a jerk. If a person is not interested, grow up and move on… unless you later want to sit on the witness stand and explain to the judge about your failed attempts at being charming.
Quid pro quo occurs when an employer offers an employee any kind of career related benefits, such as a promotion, a raise, or even just the ability to keep their job, in exchange for sexual favors. I don’t even have to explain why this is plainly wrong. Just don’t.
When you’re dealing with a gray area, it is better to be safe than sorry. Your joke might sound funny to you in your head, but you won’t be laughing if your company is served with a lawsuit. Your opinion won’t matter in a court of law, but your past behavior will.
At Eclipse Building Corp we take pride in making sure all our staff, both employees and independent contractors alike have a safe place to work, and anyone, regardless of gender has an opportunity to advance in their career.