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Combating Sexual Harassment in the Construction Industry Part 1

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There has recently been an unprecedented focus on addressing sexual harassment, especially in the workplace. While the film industry has been the focal point of this movement, attention is also being given to the construction industry, which is commonly associated with gender bias and sexual harassment. Below, we will discuss the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment in the construction industry as evidenced by a survey conducted by Engineering News-Record (ENR).  

How your company handles a sexual harassment claim will have a significant impact on the prevalence of future claims. To ensure that your company has a comprehensive policy in place for properly handling claims of discrimination and harassment, partner with the Miami construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law. 

Quantifying Sexual Harassment

ENR surveyed 1,248 members from both the private and public sectors of the construction industry in the U.S., Canada, and overseas. From architects to contractors to engineers, respondents came from a wide range of backgrounds and represented all levels of the industry.

66 percent of the anonymous respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment or gender bias either on the jobsite or in the workplace, while 60 percent claimed to have witnessed it. 36 percent of respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment on the jobsite, while about 38 percent experienced it in an office setting. Over two-thirds of the respondents were women, and the results are shocking when their responses are examined separately. 85 percent of the women surveyed reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment while working in the construction industry. 

In these cases, harassment mainly consisted of inappropriate personal requests, questions, and jokes or innuendos. Nearly a third of cases included inappropriate physical contact. However, sexual harassment was also characterized by suggestive texts and emails, threats of retaliation for not complying with an inappropriate request, and gender-different responses to an action from a supervisor, among others. 

While the above statistics are eye-opening, they pale in comparison to the anecdotal evidence presented by respondents. Several women reported being fired from their positions or threatened with physical harm after rebuffing unwanted advances from an employer, while men reported being exposed to pornography or being fired for their sexual orientation. 

How Did Respondents Handle Incidents of Sexual Harassment? 

Many of the women who reported experiencing sexual harassment said that they did not report the harassment or perpetrator to their employer. This is most likely due to a fear of being ignored, excluded, or fired. Often, they only informally reported the incident to a coworker. Respondents also reported the challenges of reporting sexual harassment to companies without an HR department or policy in place for dealing with incidents such as these. If your company does not have a policy in place for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace, consult with a Miami construction lawyer

Of those that did report sexual harassment to their employer, over half stated that their employer did not respond at all to the incident. For many, quitting their job was the only way to remedy the situation. However, some respondents resorted to filing a lawsuit. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 66 harassment lawsuits — 41 of which involved sexual harassment — were filed by the agency in 2018, a more than 50 percent increase from the previous year. That same year, the EEOC was able to recover $70 million dollars for claimants, an increase from $47.5 million in 2017. 

Sexual harassment is a widespread problem that results in not only pain and misery for those affected by it but also incredible damages to be paid by employers who are culpable in ignoring or fostering sexual harassment in the workplace. Consult with a Miami construction lawyer for additional tips on avoiding EEOC lawsuits

An Industry in Desperate Need of Change  

63 percent of respondents reported that the construction industry is too slow in confronting gender harassment. This glacial crawl in addressing sexual harassment is unacceptable for contractors that want to look out for their workers and avoid costly lawsuits. As we continue in part two, we will more thoroughly discuss what constitutes harassment and how construction companies can approach and combat sexual harassment within their offices and on the jobsite. 

If your company has been complacent in its efforts to prevent sex-based discrimination, it can only end in a potential lawsuit and the exclusion and loss of skilled workers. Many states are forgoing the statute of limitations with regards to sexual harassment cases. Upon request, our attorneys can build a comprehensive policy for your company that can help prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace. For assistance with remaining compliant with federal and local laws regarding sex-based discrimination, consult a Miami construction attorney from Cotney Construction Law. 

If you would like to speak with one of our Miami construction attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.