More Men Filing Sexual Harassment Claims

WSJ Online reports on an increase in the number of sexual-harassment complaints filed by men.

I can’t say that I’m surprised, especially in light of the parallel increase in the number of males who have been laid off or terminated for economic reasons. The unavoidable reality is that individuals are more likely to file a claim or a lawsuit when they’re out of work and, especially, when work is hard to find. Since September 2008, twice as many men have lost their jobs as compared to women. Which could explain the 12% increase in harassment claims brought by men since 2006.

The claims brought by males are somewhat different than those brought by females, though. According to WSJ’s Dana Mattioli, claims brought by men often allege harassment in the form of “horseplay” or “rough-housing” in the workplace. Apparently, it’s no more fun to get beat up in the workplace than it was in the high-school locker room. Go figure.

Male-on-male harassment can look very much like bullying and can involve verbal and physical abuse. In November 2009, the Cheesecake Factory settled a sexual harassment suit filed by six male employees, who alleged that they’d been groped and otherwise subjected to physical attacks by male coworkers. The settlement came at a heft cost of $345,000.

To prevent these suits, employers should take the following steps:

1. Have a valid and effective anti-harassment policy;

2. Train employees on the prevention of harassment and be sure to include examples other than the traditional male-boss-harasses-female-secretary scenario; and

3. Do not tolerate workplace harassment by dismissing it as a “personality conflict” or justifying it by saying that “boys will be boys.”

Terri Cheek and Lauren Hudecki will be speaking on the issue of male-on-male harassment, as well as other gender-related workplace issues at our Annual Employment Law Seminar on April 28, 2010.

See these related posts:

Employee Handbooks: Anti-Harassment Tip Sheet

3d Circuit: Who Is a “Supervisor” for Purpose of Imputing Harassment Liability

The Death of a Sexual Harassment Policy