The laws regarding sexual harassment have implications for many people who may not even be aware of their existence. For example, they can have serious consequences for the victim, perpetrator, and even the employer. Employers may be called upon to protect their workers. There are certain key issues of which all parties must be aware. We will demonstrate this with a series of recent cases.
The Oregon Wildlife Agency Deals with Sexual Harassment Allegations
It was reported on the 8th of August, 2017 that the agency had instituted an investigation after it was discovered that senior staff members were guilty of having explicit conversations at work that were construed as tantamount to sexual harassment. A former manager at the Department of Fish and Wildlife is believed to have been the alleged perpetrator.
In this case, there was an onus or duty of care for the employer to ensure that the employees were not being harassed in the course of their official duties. The case is notable for highlighting the possible precedent of “condoning sexual harassment” becoming a key provision for the prosecutor. It is no longer enough to say that a person did not actually engage in the alleged harassment. The case mentioned above shows that liability may be much more widespread than previously understood.
“Me Too” Provisions and Protections
The existing regime allows for victims of sexual assault to come together and do advocacy work that protects them in the long run. That is the thinking behind the “Me Too” program. The mantra was first used by the famous feminist Tarana Burke, but that was about a decade ago. Now, it is being used to focus on social media tags as a campaigning model. Although this model does not have legal force, it nevertheless helps victims to have a voice.
Of recent, there has been a renewed interest in the Oregon laws on sexual harassment at work because of the Harvey Weinstein case. In this instance, the influential Hollywood producer was accused of sexually assaulting and harassing countless women, some of whom are famous actresses and celebrities today. The scandal was noted for the fact that the people that could have made a difference were largely silent even when they knew what was going on.
Key Obligations for the Employer
At this moment in time, Oregon does not have a definitive and comprehensive bystander law to capture those that do not assist victims. Nevertheless, there are certain court precedents that put an onus on the employer to ensure that the workspace is safe for all workers. This is in addition to the technical assistance for employers.
These are key obligations you need to be wary of:
- Give adequate notice of the company policy.
- Investigate all reported cases thoroughly and take appropriate action.
- Engage in an ongoing awareness and support campaign for all employees.
- Attend seminars and workshops in order to get better acquainted with the current law.
Even the most innocent incidents such as “workplace banter” can potentially turn into a major sexual harassment case. The perpetrators can be of a wide range in terms of age and social status. For example, a 14-year-old was removed from Fremont Middle School after being accused of 10 counts of indecent assault against fellow female students.
If you are an employer, victim, or even accused person, it is in your best interest to get access to a lawyer at the earliest opportunity. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys today.