Harassment at work in Wisconsin is not only frowned upon, but it is illegal under Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Law. Harassment occurs when an employer either singles a person out because of their protected class, or the content of the harassment relates to a protected characteristic, such as age, national origin, or sex. It is important to know that Wisconsin Fair Employment Law only covers harassment of the protected classes, and that it does not cover harassment due to personal biases or dislike. Some examples of harassment include verbal abuse, epithets, sexually explicit or derogatory language, display of explicit materials, mimicry, lewd gestures and telling of jokes offensive to a protected class. In order to be considered harassment, usually an employee must face multiple offensives, and not just one or two isolated incidents.
What constitutes harassment? Harassment is in the eye of the beholder. What is acceptable to one worker may not be acceptable to another. Harassment is unwanted conduct that happens when an employee does not solicit or invite an inappropriate action, or when the employee regards the conduct as undesirable or offensive. Remember that conduct is unlawful when it is unwelcomed.
Sexual Harassment includes unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when it is made an implicit or explicit term of condition. This means that if the acceptance or rejection of such a request is used as the basis for an employment decision, the conduct interferes with an employee’s work, or creates a hostile working environment it is considered sexual harassment. This being said, sexual harassment can be seen in two contexts: Quid Pro Quo or a Hostile Environment. Quid Pro Quo essentially is when employment decisions are based on an employee’s willingness to perform sexual favors, a ‘this for that’ request. A hostile working environment can be verbal comments, non-verbal cues, or physical contact.
If you are an employer and have a problem of harassment in your business there are some important steps that are important to consider while dealing with workplace harassment. The first step is to implement a strong policy explicitly prohibiting harassment, as well as providing training and education to employees on workplace harassment. It is also a good idea to provide your employees multiple, anonymous ways to report incidents of harassment; this will help to ensure that a victim will be comfortable in making a complaint. Finally, it is important to make sure that every complaint is taken seriously and a corrective measure is taken immediately.
Owners and managers must take the outmost concern of any harassment claims because, “an employer is responsible for its own actions and those of its agents regardless of whether the acts were authorized or even forbidden by the employer and regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of those acts.” This means that an employer is in fact liable for harassment between co-workers, their agents, or their customers or suppliers. The consequences for harassment from the employer’s perspective can be lost work time, less productive employees, their businesses reputation, or even damages.
All claims of workplace harassment are dealt with through the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development. An experienced attorney can help navigate through this long process, and help recover greater damages. Please comment below, or contact an attorney at Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC for questions regarding any of your legal needs. Go to KH-LAW.net to find out more.