Sexual harassment is yet another example of workplace embarrassments that inexplicably still exists in 2007. It's hard to say whether or not this problem has diminished over the years or if cases simply aren't as hyped in the media as they once may have been. However, this recent case from Arizona really caught my eye .
You can find all the details in the original piece, but here's what happened. A bank employee started reporting to an interim president who made repeated advances, to the point that he followed her into the ladies' room and accosted her.
As if such loutish behavior wasn't shocking enough, what ensues is so absurd that it would be laughable if we weren't talking about sexual assault. The employee contacted management 19 days after the incident (which would later be used against her in a classic case of "blame the victim." )
The bank assigned a senior-level executive to investigate the allegations, but that was quickly curtailed as the executive in question had previously been investigated for sexual harassment. An investigation from an external source offered counseling to the employee and her husband, reprimanded the interim president, and ordered sexual harassment training for both the interim president (immediately) and executive level members ("in the near future").
Are you ready for this? Once that slap on the wrist was administered, the employee was ordered to return to her duties under the offending interim president. As you can imagine, the employee alleged that he made her workday rather difficult.
What is mindboggling is that such acts – which were corroborated by witnesses who were never asked to testify – didn't lead to an immediate dismissal.
If sexual harassment in the workplace is to ever be eradicated, HR and management have to quit hiding behind a wall of silence to protect their image and management.
Inappropriate comments are bad enough, but following an employee (a subordinate) into the restroom and then to fondle her, there aren't many words available to describe the level of disbelief.
Unfortunately, redress wasn't available through the company so it's now going to jury trial. Perhaps this sort of message will make the employer see the interim president as a liability and start implementing a true anti-sexual harassment plan in the future.