VEC Human Resource Management Services
Reference: See Below
Effective Date: May 1, 2004
Rescission: Sexual Harassment Policy September 1, 2000
The Virginia Employment Commission, in law and in spirit, is committed to providing a work environment that is conducive to the performance of job duties and free from intimidation or coercion in any form .
As an employer, the VEC is dedicated to a stringent policy against discrimination as indicated in Executive Order Number One (02). Harassment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, religion, age or disability is a form of discrimination prohibited by federal and state law. It is the intent of this policy to further detail harassment on the basis of sex.
Sexual harassment is an unlawful employment practice, which potentially can subject both the agency and the harasser to financial liability. The agency intends to avoid such liability by prohibiting the practice of sexual harassment of any employee, applicant for employment, contractor, or volunteer and requiring that its employees refrain from conduct that could give rise to allegations of sexual harassment.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment
This policy statement will be disseminated to all agency employees. Each local office and the Central Office are required to display this policy statement publicly. This policy statement will be subject to review during Equal Opportunity (EO) Technical Assistance Reviews.
For questions regarding this policy or any issues related to harassment employees may contact any of the following: VEC Human Resource Management Services, the Department of Human Resource Management, the Department of Employment Dispute Resolution, and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Virginia Employment Commission reserves the right to revise or eliminate this policy.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Q. Why does the VEC need a sexual harassment policy?
A. Such a policy protects our employees, managers, and clients by describing the behaviors constituting sexual harassment and the potential consequences of those behaviors. Employees sometimes do not understand what behaviors constitute sexual harassment, and can interpret those behaviors in widely varying ways.
Q. What behaviors are included in sexual harassment?
A. Unwanted pressure for sexual favors; unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, or cornering; unwanted leering or gestures; unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature, unwanted pressure for dates; unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks or questions; sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks; looking a person up and down; personal questions about social or sexual life; turning work discussions to sexual topics; standing close or brushing up against a person; touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person. The key to all these behaviors is if they are unwelcome. Conduct is unwelcome if the recipient did not initiate it and regards it as offensive.
Q. Does sexual harassment only occur between males and females?
A. Sexual harassment can occur in a wide variety of circumstances and include many different variables, including same-gender sexual harassment. A man or woman may be harassed by either a woman or a man and both types of harassment are prohibited by Title VII.
Q. If I compliment the way someone looks, can he/she charge me with sexual harassment?
A. A nonsexual compliment is not sexual harassment; the courts look at how a reasonable person would interpret such a remark. However, if I compliment the way you look today while running my eyes up and down your body or letting my gaze linger upon certain parts of your anatomy, that would cross over the line to sexual harassment.
Q. What do you mean by “reasonable person” above?
A. Sexual conduct should be evaluated from the perspective of the person complaining of harassment. Sexual harassment laws are not designed to protect the oversensitive employee; the test has been whether the conduct would be offensive to a “reasonable person”. The “courts and EEOC have adopted the “reasonable person” standard for evaluating sexual harassment. Neither has elaborated on the definition of “reasonable person”. However, EEOC views a “reasonable person” as a hypothetical person in similar circumstances who has the perspective of the victim.
Q. When is a work environment “hostile”?
A. It is hostile when sexual harassment is severe and pervasive enough to alter the victim’s employment conditions and create an abusive work environment. This occurs when sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. It is not necessary that the sexual conduct be directed to the person making the complaint.
Unwelcome, intentional touching of an employee’s intimate body areas is sufficiently offensive to be hostile environment sexual harassment. More so than verbal remarks, a single unwelcome touching can seriously poison the victim’s work environment. Pornographic magazines and pictures, vulgar comments about men or women, pinups, sexually oriented calendars or lewd jokes can create a hostile work environment that amounts to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is one type of harassment based on sex. However, it is not the only type of unlawful harassment which is sex-based. Acts of aggression, intimidation, hostility, rudeness, name calling, or other types of abusive conduct not involving sexual activity or language, can give rise to Title VII liability when directed at employees because of their sex.
Q. What if an employee joins in sexual jokes and talk?
A. On occasion, an employee may join in jokes or talk of a sexual nature in the workplace. That may indicate the conduct is not offensive. However, that does not mean the conduct should be tolerated by the office manager. If the manager observes such joking in the workplace, the participants should be counseled that such behavior is inappropriate in the workplace and therefore unacceptable behavior, even if nobody complains about it. This manager should stop all such activity immediately.
An employee may willingly participate in sexual conduct, but then stop. Sexual harassment can be found if the employee informs the people involved that any further sexual conduct is not welcome. Past participation in such conduct cannot be used to show that an employee would never be offended by sexual comments or that such conduct is generally welcome.
Actual participation in sexual conduct may be voluntary, but it can still be unwelcome sexual harassment. An employee may voluntarily participate in unwelcome sexual conduct because of fear of losing his or her job, a promotion, etc.
Q. How will I know if my behavior is unwelcome?
A. Ask yourself the following questions:
A “no” answer to 1, 2, 3, and 4 means that your behavior is probably unwelcome by the recipient. A “no” answer to 5 means that your behavior is very likely unwelcome.
When in doubt, DON’T!!
Q. What if I didn’t mean to be sexually offensive?
A. Remember that “unwelcome” is decided by the recipient of the behavior, not the person doing the behavior. Therefore, it is the impact of the behavior, not the intent of the person who did the behavior, that determines if sexual harassment has occurred.
Q. What should I do if I feel I have been sexually harassed?
A. Make it clear that such behavior is unwelcome and report it to the appropriate supervisory level. In instances where the alleged harasser is the immediate supervisor, the violation should be reported to the harasser’s supervisor. Allegations may also be reported to the Human Relations Manager or the HRMS
If you have any questions about this policy, call the Human Relations Manager at (804) 786-3466.
Guidelines on Dealing Effectively with Sexual Harassment Complaints
The following guidelines are intended for the use of agency supervisors and managers in conducting a fact-finding inquiry on a complaint of sexual harassment. Per the agency Sexual Harassment Policy, managers and supervisors must immediately investigate an allegation of sexual harassment with the counsel and/or assistance of the HRMS Office. All allegations of sexual harassment must be reported to the Human Relations Manager or HRMS Director. Regardless of whether the complaint is made to management or directly to HRMS, the following guidelines will be used during the course of the fact-
One reason for this is the growing number of slander and libel charges being filed as a result of sexual harassment investigations. All parties should be advised that it is imperative they tell the truth regarding what they have personally seen or heard.
Interviewing the Complainant
Interviewing the Accused
Resolving the Complaint
Agency supervisors and managers should consult with HRMS for guidance regarding allegations of sexual harassment by a non-employee.