Harassing on the Clock

Photo by laffy4k via flickr

Our friend over at Stop Street Harassment Blog wrote a great post on whether or not employers should be responsible when their employees harass in public while on the clock. We’ve had some dialogue on this blog around the issue and even a few success stories of individuals who reported an incident to the harasser’s employer. We want to know your thoughts on the issue as we are brainstorming the types of policies and programs that are needed in our community to address gender-based public sexual harassment. What are the pros with having companies and businesses implement a Harassment Hotline. Do you see any cons to a system like this?

Cross posted from Stop Street Harassment Blog:

Should employers be responsible if their employees harass women in public, while the employee is on the job?

Recently I read Deborah Thompson’s article “‘The Woman in the Street:’ Reclaiming the Public Space from Sexual Harassment” (a 1994 article in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism) and I like her ideas on this topic.

“While Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination] was never intended to apply outside the workplace, its hostile environment principles provide a useful framework from which to develop a liability regime to protect all women who are street harassed by ‘men at work.’

This regime would hold employers vicariously liable for public sexual harassment by their employees if the employer failed to warn workers that street harassment is intolerable, failed to implement as system by which members of the public could formally file a complaint, or failed to take remedial action when members of the public complained about harassment by their employees.

It would be relatively easy to develop a complaint procedure for street harassment. For example, instead of signs on the back of company trucks that read, ‘How’s my driving, call 1-800-555-1212,’ trucks and taxis could display signs that read, ‘If the driver of this vehicle harasses you, call 1-800-555-1212.’

Similarly at construction sites, there should be a number for women to call to complain about harassment by workers. Such a ‘Harassment Hotline’ would be a first step in ending the hostile environment of outdoor workplaces.

It would send a valuable message that a particular company cares about its image and does not tolerate workers who invade and bombard communities with sexual harassment…

In sum, the societal interest of promoting the privacy, safety, mobility, and equality of women should outweigh the desire of employees to engage in recreational sexual harassment while on the job.”

What do you think?

Here are two stories submitted by contributors who were able to report a harassing man or men to the employer and meet with success. And it would be even easier to make these kinds of reports if the number to call regarding harassment was prominently posted.

One response to “Harassing on the Clock

  1. I absolutely believe in holding employers ‘responsible’ for employees who harass while on the clock or in uniform. As law enforcement and transit authorities won’t take harassment complaints seriously, employers are about the only authority willing to take action to sanction the offender.

    I live in Dupont Circle, very near to Lauriol Plaza; and I walk by their valet parking every day. And every day, without fail, I would be catcalled by the valets on duty.

    I’d finally had enough, and on a busy Friday night pushed through the crowds to demand to speak to a manager. I spoke to the owner, told him I was a neighbor and that I knew that he did his best to be a good neighbor, but the behavior of his valet attendants was ruining the restaurant’s reputation in the neighborhood.

    In the weeks since, I have not heard a single catcall on my way home. The change was immediate, and the behavior has not yet returned.

    I had thought that it would take more than one complaint. I had assumed I would have to go on a one-woman tirade, posting complaints about the restaurant on every community blog and yelp review to prove to the restaurant’s owner that employees who harass women would damage the restaurant’s reputation.

    But reputation is money to business owners and it took only one polite complaint to the restaurateur before Lauriol Plaza instituted a strict anti-harassment policy. I’m happy to say that they have been great neighbors ever since.

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