JANUARY 2003 VOLUME 12, Issue 5
A newsletter for the members and friends of the
MetroWest Human Resource Management Association
AN OVERVIEW OF AVOIDING WORKPLACE SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS:
STEPS FOR MINIMIZING LIABILITY FOR EMPLOYERS
by Maria C. Moynihan
Recent cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination claims remind employers that this aspect of the law continues to
evolve. This evolution has consequences for employers. The decisions issued by Courts and enforcing agencies adjudicating these
claims demonstrate the complexity of these cases.
Proactive Suggestions for Employers
In response to the increase of sexual harassment claims and corresponding responsibilities imposed by federal and state anti-
discrimination laws, employers must establish effective policies to guard against workplace sexual harassment and discrimination
claims. To be effective, policies should be in writing, define sexual harassment and include examples of inappropriate workplace
behavior. A comprehensive policy should include at least the following examples of inappropriate workplace behavior: (1)
unwelcome and sexual behavior between coworkers; (2) sending sexually inappropriate or offensive remarks through the
employer’s email, voicemail, computer or electronic systems; (3) conditioning an employee’s raise or any condition of employment
upon the employee’s submission to sexual favors; and (4) using sexually vulgar or explicit language in the workplace.
The policy should also confirm an employer’s commitment to a discrimination-free workplace, announce the consequences for
employees who fail to adhere to this commitment and provide the names of individuals within the organization to whom employees
can bring claims of sexual harassment, discrimination or questions. 1
Policies should be distributed to all new hires and redistributed annually. The policy should also be included in an employer’s
handbook and posted on the employer’s internal website.
Internal Reporting Policies Should Provide
Alternative Personnel to Report Complaints
Whenever possible, reporting procedures should provide for an alternative person to whom an employee may report an incident of
workplace sexual harassment. Likewise, whenever practicable, employees should have the option of reporting complaints to either a
male or a female employee. (Continued on Page 2)
Several states including Massachusetts enacted laws that specifically direct covered employers to “…promote a workplace free from sexual
harassment.” See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 151B §3A, R.I. Gen. Laws, §28-51-2 and Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 21 §495h. Consistent with their charge,
these laws require employers to adopt written workplace sexual harassment policies. Although each statute contains its own requirements certain
common themes exist, some of which are summarized below. Accordingly, all laws direct employers to publish a policy that informs employees
that workplace sexual harassment is illegal, contains definitions and examples of sexual harassment and outlines the range of consequences for
employees who fail to conduct themselves in accordance with the prescriptions of the policy. The preventive laws also require that employers
distribute policies to all employees and new hires. Policies must also contain a description of the process for filing internal complaints.
Employers in these states must also ensure that their policies comply with the mandates of applicable law.
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(Continued from Page 1)
Workplace Compliance Training
Proper training of employees is an essential step in minimizing liability. Employees should be educated on precisely what constitutes
acceptable and unacceptable workplace behavior, and of the potential consequences for failing to conduct themselves in accordance
with the established policy. Regular trainings are necessary to reinforce the employer’s commitment to provide employee training.
As the tenor of our workforces becomes more diverse, employers’ workplace policies must evolve to accommodate these changes.
Comprehensive discrimination policies and workplace trainings are important steps that employers can take to minimize the risk of
Maria C. Moynihan, a Partner of Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP, specializes in labor and employment law. Ms. Moynihan also
serves as a mediator and arbitrator in employment and commercial disputes and is a frequent author in employment law. She can
be reached at 617/523-6666 or email@example.com.
WELCOME NEW MEMBER
Bonnie Dufualt, DBM
These lines found on the Internet are purportedly actual lines from Military Performance Appraisals:
1. Got into the gene pool while the lifeguard wasn't watching.
2. A room temperature IQ.
3. Got a full 6-pack, but lacks the plastic thingy to hold it all together.
4. A gross ignoramus -- 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus.
5. A photographic memory but with the lens cover glued on.
6. Bright as Alaska in December.
7. Gates are down, the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.
8. He's so dense, light bends around him.
9. If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered.
MetroWest HRMA 2002 - 2003 SEMINAR SCHEDULE
SEPTEMBER 17, 2002 ANNUAL MEETING and FEBRUARY 11, 2003 Annual Wage and Hour, FLSA and
Managing the Angry Employee FMLA Review and Update
OCTOBER 22, 2002 Second Annual Inside the MARCH 18, 2003 Performance Management, Effective
MCAD: How it Works and How it Affects You Discipline, and Terminations
NOVEMBER 19, 2002 Who are you hiring? APRIL 15, 2003 Workplace Discrimination Training
DECEMBER 10, 2002 The Ups and Downs of MAY 20, 2003 Substance Abuse in the
Unemployment Insurance Workplace
JANUARY 21, 2003 HR Case Studies JUNE 17, 2003 Annual Employment
Program Law Update
For additional information, please visit the calendar section of our website at www.metrowesthrma.com
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Kathleen Mahoney, Middlesex Savings Bank
NEWS FROM SHRM
What Do Workers Value? Depends Who You Ask
What do workers say will make them happy? A survey by USATODAY.com and the Society for Human Resource Management
(SHRM) recently addressed this question and found the answer varies depending on whom you ask.
Employees say "job security" is very important to their satisfaction levels. The top three aspects that are "very important" to
* 1. Job Security (65%)
* 2. Benefits (64%)
* 3. Communication between employees and management (62%)
But what do HR professionals think workers need to be satisfied on the job? HR professionals ranked the following as "very
important" to workers' happiness:
* 1. Communication between employees and management (77%)
* 2. Recognition by management (62%)
* 3. Relationship with immediate supervisor (61%)
Considering the differences in responses, the question raised is whether HR professionals are in tune with employees. The
survey indicates that HR professionals believe employees place a significant emphasis on workplace relationships. Employees,
however, are focused more toward the tangible items like benefits and job security, possibly due to the current economic
Opinions also differed by employees' age and gender. Workers age 35 and younger rated communication and work/life balance
as equally important (66%), while older workers age 35 to 55 ranked job security first (71%). Women ranked flexibility to
balance life and work issues (72%) and communication (71%) as their top concerns, while men placed benefits (62%) and job
security (61%) as their highest priorities.
In terms of overall satisfaction with their current job, only 11 percent of employees responding said they were dissatisfied. The
majority, a total of 77 percent, said they are either satisfied or very satisfied with their current job.
"Given what employees say is important to them in terms of job satisfaction, most employers appear to be making the grade,"
according to SHRM Vice President of Knowledge Development, Debra Cohen, PhD, SPHR. "Remembering the turnover that
many companies experienced in the recent past when the labor market was very tight for skilled workers, it is interesting to note
that most employees currently report the extreme importance of job security and a high level of job satisfaction."
The study surveyed more than 1,000 workers and human resource professionals during September 2002. HR professionals were
randomly selected from SHRM's member database and worker opinions were solicited via a survey placed on
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HR ALLIANCE SCHEDULE Through March 2003
Meeting Date Topic Speaker Alliance Organization &
January 29 Customer Service Skills for Martha Stephens, Employment Management
Employment and HR Professionals Greenleaf Consulting Association
February 12 Training Activities Bonnie Petrovich Central Mass ASTD
February 13 When the Pink Slip is Yours Rick Dacri, Dacri & Central Mass HRMA
February 19 Fiduciary/Investment Liability; 404(c) Mary Rosen, Associate Worldwide Employee Benefits
Regional Director, U.S. Network
March 19 Health Care Cost Containment Liz Dudek, The Segal Worldwide Employee Benefits
March 20 Mock Trial TBA Central Mass HRMA
MWHRMA BOARD MEMBERS & VOLUNTEERS
Mark Vital, SPHR, CT, Chair of the Board Cheryl Cushman, President
Rana Hosseini, Vice President & Benefits Coordinator Maura Grossman, Secretary
Apex Benefits Consultants, Inc. Grafton Suburban Credit Union
Kathleen Mahoney, Treasurer Mary Hassan, Diversity Coordinator
Middlesex Savings Bank First Act, Inc.
Mike Sabin, Administrator Dianne Davidson, Editor
Bay State Advisors, Inc. Human Resource Partners, Inc.
Charlie Anderson, Ed.D., SPHR, Membership Chair Mark Whitney, Esq., Program Chair
Diligent Technologies Morgan, Brown & Joy, LLP
Debbie Bercume, SHRM Coordinator Bob Murphy, Past Chair (Ex-officio)
CMEA The Employers Association Human Resource Partners, Inc.
HReSource is published 10 times a year by the MetroWest HRMA, 12 West Central Street, Natick, MA 01760. Dianne Davidson, Editor, 508-655-0808.
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