If you're an Indianapolis waitress, you work hard for your tips. You realize that the paltry hourly wage you're paid will never pay the bills. You need to remain fast on your feet, have a keen memory for orders and regulars' favorites and a ready smile for all you serve in order to make ends meet.
Even with a variety of federal and state laws in place, workplace sexual harassment remains a major problem throughout the country.
When people in Indiana and throughout the country take charges of sexual harassment before the legal system, those cases are often dismissed by judges. Nationwide, only 3 to 6 percent of sexual harassment cases make it to trial.
Recent allegations made against powerful people in entertainment and politics have shone new light on sexual harassment across all industries and in all states, including Indiana. An outgrowth of the newfound focus on workplace sexual misconduct is the "me too" campaign, which has provided a platform for men and women to come forward with details of their experiences working in diverse work environments. Companies large and small have and do face legal actions based on the manner in which they handle sexual harassment cases.
Allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood may be getting the attention of the mainstream media at the moment. However, the lessons learned in those cases could be helpful for Indiana employers. Ideally, when a worker reports an incident of sexual harassment, his or her employer will work to resolve the situation properly instead of trying to make it go away. Investigations should be prompt, thorough and properly documented regardless of the nature of the harassment.
Although sexual harassment does occur in workplaces, not everyone is actively involved. There are sometimes witnesses who have observed the harassment or have heard of incidents occurring. Indiana employees can help prevent future incidents by taking action.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects men and women from sexual harassment at work. The act enables Indiana workers to challenge unwelcome sexual advances, supervisors asking for sex, sexual touches, verbal harassment or sexually offensive remarks. Although the occasional lewd joke or teasing statement will not meet the definition of sexual harassment, a workplace where the behavior is pervasive or a specific employee endures continual mistreatment could be in violation of the law.
Employers in Indiana that disregard the criminal conduct of an employee outside of work could end up involved in litigation if one or more co-workers experienced discomfort in the alleged criminal's presence. A case involving a female employee of another state's department of corrections has been remanded back to the trial court after an appeals court found validity in her claim of a hostile work environment.
Some Indiana employees may be unsure of what to do if they witness sexual harassment in the workplace. Unfortunately, reporting sexual harassment on behalf of other employees can carry several risks. One man who reported seeing harassment in his workplace was demoted and then fired.
When an employee makes a sexual harassment complaint, management has a duty to investigate that complaint reasonably and to refrain from retaliating against the person who brought it. Uber, the ride-hailing giant, was facing a public accusation by a former employee that she experienced sexual harassment and that management failed to respond appropriately.