It would be nice if we could observe our co-workers for a day or two and then name those who are likely to engage in sexual harassment. Researchers have tried to do exactly that. Unfortunately, the conclusion they reach is that characteristics do not determine this propensity as much as the work environment itself. Sure, attitudes and opinions—like traditional views on male and female roles and belief in gender stereotypes—can make a man more likely to harass women. But it turns out that organizational conditions are still the most powerful predictors of sexual harassment. Workplaces with mostly male employees and those with traditionally masculine job duties are high on the list.
But there is a third—a big one: tolerance of offensive behavior. No matter how good your company’s anti-harassment policies may be, a climate that condones (or fails to discourage) harassing behavior is likely to breed more harassing behavior. Senior management clearly has a role in setting this stage. This means that even though companies often rely on the strength of their anti-harassment policy to shield them from liability, the policy itself is not a good bellwether for if an environment is ripe for sexual harassment. So instead, spend your observing if the higher-ups value and follow company policies of all types, if they discipline wrongdoers, and how they interact with their employees.
The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney. If you need legal advice, please consult with an attorney like those at the California Civil Rights Law Group.
If you think you experienced sexual harassment, race-based discrimination, retaliation, or other illegal treatment in your work place, reach out to one of our San Francisco Bay Area attorneys with expertise in these issues. No two situations are alike, but with offices in Oakland, San Francisco, and San Anselmo, our employment discrimination attorneys make it easy to have a confidential consultation on any potential civil rights violations that you may be facing.