Sexual Harassment in the workplace has been against the law in America for more than fifty years. In Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Congress enacted the following language. “It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer … to discriminate against any individual with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” As an entrepreneur coach I work with business owners in all areas of their enterprise.
Certified Professional Coach
Not only am I a Certified Professional Coach, I also have a law degree from one of America’s top law schools. Of course, I do not mix my coaching practice with giving legal advice about sexual harassment or any other subject. It does help, though, to know the law when I am coaching business people. I do not let my clients make legal mistakes.
Of course, passing a law isn’t going to stop discrimination. We have so many laws in America that many of them are just viewed as mere suggestions. If passing legislation really changed behavior we would not have an opioid epidemic in this country right now.
Sexual Harassment Not Mentioned Per Se
Look at the language of the statute I cited above. It says nothing at all about sexual harassment. That is the problem with legislation. By the time a bill goes through the committee it gets amended and changed and in order to get the necessary votes for passage, it goes to the floor in a watered-down fashion.
It took the judges of the Federal Courts to decide what was and was not sexual harassment under the law.
And, therein lies the problem. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be the minimum standard when it comes to sexual harassment. No person should be subject to any form of inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature whether or not it is against the law.
Is #MeToo Going To Change Anything?
The #metoo movement is gaining momentum. Sexual harassment in the workplace has to be acknowledged and admitted before it can be confronted. So the more light that is shone upon the subject the better. The sad thing is that many entrepreneurs do not even understand what types of things are considered to be sexual harassment. In order to solve the problem entrepreneurs need to be eductaed on the facts. Entrepreneurs need to be able to recognize those things that are considered to be abusive and intolerable.
What Are The Standards?
What is inappropriate behavior? That is where this question gets tricky. I am not speaking about the law here. I am speaking about accepted behavior between two people. There are some great resources about what is or is not sexual harassment. I have written about this in the past.
Appropriate behavior is going to have different standards in and out of the workplace. Behavior that may be acceptable on a Saturday night at your favorite club is not necessarily going to be appropriate at work. So many times in small business settings people mix their professional and personal lives.
Interestingly enough, it is not necessarily the place where the sexual harassment takes place as it is the relationship between the two parties. Workplace sexual harassment is different than simply being inappropriate. Grabbing a stranger’s buttocks during a photo op is inappropriate no matter what the setting. In fact it may be a criminal act in some states.
The Law Is the Minimum Standard
The law, though, should not be the guiding principle in how we treat one another. It really is the minimum standard. Clearly groping an employee is not acceptable behavior. Is it always a violation of Title VII? Not always. Doesn’t that seem strange?
That is why entrepreneurs should set a higher standard than just following the law. Rather than trying to determine if an activity is illegal, determine whether the conduct is “right.” That really is an easy question to answer. Put it to this test: Is the action I am about to take something that I would do or say in the presence of a jury in a Federal Courtroom?
If the answer is not a definite “Yes,” rethink what you are about to do.
If you would be open to a conversation about me holding a session for you and/or you employees, contact me.