The construction industry is known for praising bravado while downplaying talk of inequality and “PC culture.” While a tough attitude is something to be praised, fostering a hostile work environment that does nothing to address claims of sexual harassment is a mistake that can cost construction companies millions.
In part one of this two-part series, we discussed how sexual harassment is rampant in the construction industry. Below, we will further detail what is considered sexual harassment and how construction companies can and should take steps towards mitigating instances of sexual harassment in the workplace and on the jobsite. For assistance building a comprehensive policy and strategy for addressing sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, consult with a Miami contractor attorney from Cotney Construction Law.
What is Considered Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment
Simply put, sex discrimination consists of treating someone at work differently because of their sex, gender, or affiliation with a group that is characterized by a particular sex. For sex discrimination to be illegal, it must negatively affect their employment. As stipulated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate with regards to an employee’s “compensation, terms, or privileges of employment” because of their sex. An employer is also forbidden from depriving an employee of employment opportunities or from hiring or firing an employee with respect to their sex.
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” Simply making derogatory comments about women in general can be considered sexual harassment. And while the above laws don’t apply to isolated incidents, they do apply when harassment fosters a hostile or stifling work environment or leads to an employee being fired or demoted.
What Can Construction Companies Do to Combat Sexual Harassment?
Construction companies must invest in harassment and discrimination training for their workforces. For example, bystander intervention training can teach your workers to intervene and come to a coworker’s defense when they witness sexual harassment. Additionally, modern training initiatives involve playing out scenarios that charge workers with imagining what it would be like to be in the shoes of someone who is being harassed. The goal is to encourage a cultural shift that protects workers instead of tearing them down. Even with these training methods in place, it is still on management to enact clear rules and lead by example.
The best way that construction companies can combat sexual harassment is to have a comprehensive employee policy in place that outlines not only clear rules against sexual harassment but also potential disciplinary actions that perpetrators would incur. There must be a transparent complaint mechanism for victims to report cases of sexual harassment involving either themselves or a coworker.
It is just as important to follow through on these policies as it is to have them in place. Failure to do so could result in a lawsuit, especially if the victim feels that their perpetrator got off with a slap on the wrist. Alternatively, these policies could salvage a valuable worker if the infraction was minor. What matters is that your company takes the appropriate and just course of action when sexual harassment is reported.
How Construction Companies Can Protect Themselves From Sexual Harassment Lawsuits
In the event a sexual harassment claim leads to litigation, construction companies must also be prepared to protect themselves. For instance, construction companies can invest in employment practices liability insurance. However, insurance may not be an option for many small or midsize contractors, and deductibles can be as high as $25,000. For this reason, it is in your best interest to partner with the Miami construction litigation attorneys from Cotney Construction Law when faced with a sexual harassment claim.
Combating Sexual Harassment With the Aid of an Attorney
As mentioned, creating and implementing a comprehensive employee policy is the best thing that construction companies can do to prevent sexual harassment. Additionally, contractors must be wary of infractions committed by subcontractors. This can be done by including anti-discrimination clauses in your contracts. Upon request, a Miami contractor attorney can draft an employee contract and review your construction contracts to ensure that your company combats sexual harassment and protects itself from the negligence of other parties.
In the event that a dispute is unavoidable, a Miami construction litigation attorney can represent you in the impending negotiations. In many cases, a sexual harassment claim can be settled through a non-disclosure agreement, avoiding a high-profile legal case that can damage the reputation of a construction company. Partnering with a team of attorneys can be an incredible relief for contractors who fear for the future of their company even when they’ve done everything in their power to address and prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. For a legal partner that will protect your company in all aspects of construction law, partner with the Miami contractor attorneys at Cotney Construction Law.
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.