Corrections or additions?
This article by Peter J. Mladineo was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
July 22, 1998. All rights reserved.
New Rules for Sexual Harassment
The United States Supreme Court has just made some
very big decisions in regard to America’s favorite workplace
Two cases, Burlington Industries vs. Ellerth, and Farragher vs. City
of Boca Raton, provide new, clearer guidelines for sexual harassment
that many have praised as beam of light through a region renowned
for its murkiness.
"The pair of 7-2 decisions, issued on the final day of the court’s
term, cut through a thicket of confusing and contradictory lower-court
rulings that had grown up in the 12 years since the justices first
ruled that sexual harassment was a form of employment
wrote Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times. "The rulings
won immediate praise across an unusually broad spectrum of both
and civil rights groups for bringing coherence to the law and
incentives for preventing harassment and dealing promptly with
Two upcoming seminars address these new precedents. Grotta, Glassman
& Hoffman, the Roseland-based law firm, hosts a discussion of sexual
harassment and other recent court decisions on Wednesday, July 29,
at 8:30 a.m. at the Woodbridge Place Sheraton. Call 973-992-4800 for
information. Also, American Humanagement Associates gives an executive
briefing on Tuesday, August 4, at 8 a.m. at the Trenton Business and
Technology Center. Call 609-989-9890 for more information.
Highlights of the decisions include these new guidelines:
must take "reasonable care to prevent and correct promptly any
sexually harassing behavior." The employee is also required to
"take advantage of any preventative or corrective
regarding the claim the employer provided beforehand.
And an employee who resists a supervisor’s advances need not have
suffered a job detriment to win a sexual harassment suit. This also
means, for example, that an employee who is not promoted because of
incompetence could win a harassment case by drawing attention to
allegations of harassment.
In each of these situations, the employer’s safeguard
in this latter case is an anti-harassment policy. "Employers can
protect themselves from sexual harassment allegations by having a
clear anti-harassment policy and by following through on the
explains Dominick Bratti, 35, a partner at Grotta, Glassman
& Hoffman. "It’s a legal way to say they’re going to take care
of the problem. The flip side of that is, the court says the employees
have to use the policy. So you can’t claim that you were sexually
harassed by a co-worker and meanwhile you sat on your rights for two
years. The employee has an obligation to complain under the policy.
There will be less opportunity for an employee to fabricate a
"I didn’t know what the supervisor was doing," doesn’t work
is part of a workplace culture conducive to sexual harassment.
of this stuff is happening on somebody’s watch," says Butler,
a 48-year-old gender issues consultant and 360-degree feedback
(U.S. 1, January 7) who started American Humanagement Association
(aha!) 12 years ago. "We have been socialized to turn a blind
eye and a deaf ear when we see icky stuff."
Sexual harassment, she insists, usually happens within sight of
in the office, and, she claims, sexual harassers always behave
The problem lies with witnesses not being willing to step outside
their comfort levels to confront. "It’s impolite to stick our
nose in and say stop that," she says.
The typical perpetrator counseled by Butler is over age 50 and is
of high value to the company. "They want to keep him, but they
want to defuse him as a ticking time bomb," says Butler.
the most profound work that I do. I change these people. We cry and
it’s not a lot of fun."
But in the end, it’s all in the day’s work for Butler. "It’s the
client’s pocketbook I’m protecting," she says. "Good
practices can be completely undone when you’re harboring sexual
in your midst."
For a small business, training employees about sexual harassment could
turn out to be a rather expensive transaction. One human resource
expert estimates that such a seminar could run in the neighborhood
of $1,500 to $2,500. "Small businesses are going to have to spend
a lot more time educating their managers and their supervisors,"
says Steve Rosenthal, CEO of Employee Management Inc., a
employer organization based in Woodbridge. "It’s not like it used
to be years ago. Today, you have to stay on top of the training
There’s a big emphasis on the employers to teach the employees."
Rosenthal’s firm, which acts as the employer of record for roughly
15,000 employees at 800 client sites, also takes care of human
functions — including sexual harassment training. He likens the
new court decisions to the court’s attitude towards other kind of
corporate training, such as 401(k) plans. "The onus is on the
employer to make sure that the employees are educated on investment
decisions," he says. "If the employees lose money on bad
the employer may be held responsible." Another analogy was the
Supreme Court case concerning the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the
coast. "The courts found that Exxon was liable because it did
not put enough protocol into the training process for drug and alcohol
abuse," says Rosenthal.
to rise to the surface, many cheer this as a victory of common sense
over a system that offered built-in excuses to management and
opportunities for extortionists. But it may also end up that the only
politically correct salutation in the office will begin with
"I think there’s an element of political correctness in everything
that goes on these days, especially in this area of the law,"
says Bratti. "People who are not 100 percent-P.C. open themselves
up for those problems."
— Peter J. Mladineo
If you can’t think of a reason why Web surfers should
bookmark your website, they’re not going to do it. That’s advice from
Blaine Greenfield, a marketing consultant who teaches a course
about Internet marketing at Bucks County Community College.
He also lectures at the New Business Learning Center on "The Truth
about the Internet," on Tuesday, July 28, at 7 p.m. at the Summit
Bank building at 6 East Trenton Avenue in Morrisville, Pennsylvania.
Call 215-736-3156 for more information.
A business can’t thrive on Web profits alone, he says. "If you
think you’re just going to put up a Web page and the orders are going
to flow in it isn’t just going to happen. The Web can be very
as a supplemental medium."
As far as getting traffic to the site, most probably know not to rely
on random new business flow (unless your site has a valuable
domain name like http://www.business.com or
Greenfield suggest lots of advertising, registering on lots of search
engines, and having a "compelling reason for them to go to your
Another tip: Update the page regularly. And make your search engine
description as specific as possible.
"The Internet has given the small business owner the chance to
compete with any major corporation," Greenfield reports. "The
cost is not prohibitive. It’s come down phenomenally. The caveat is
that if you’re going to do it yourself it’s going to take time, and
you’re going to have to stay on top of it."
Greenfield contributes to a page sponsored by the New Jersey Small
Business Development Corporation,
This is a page with resources and articles for the small business
Here are other sites Greenfield bookmarks on his computer:
search engine out there" because it allows users to search for
information using full sentence queries. Caution: This is a definitely
an example of out-of-the-box searching. Instead of spitting out hits,
this contraption asks more questions. Be prepared to gawk confusedly
at the interface for a little while. And for those who give up, Ask
Jeeves also has a standard parallel search engine — a search
that simply sends your query to several other search engines and
those searches simultaneously.
user friendly and fast, and likely to get hits on any search, no
how remote the material.
pictures of everything from a Buffalo to a tube of lipstick. It’s
a nice alternative to E-mail.
cards to loved ones. Write your own poetry, or send a premade card.
The graphics may be paltry, but it’s the thought that counts.
number but can’t remember its name? Got an old flame’s name and
but not his or her phone number? This site is for you. Its software
allows searches to be conducted using telephone numbers, or even
numbers. And it does more standard people/business searches by name.
But as with any people-finding software, don’t expect a high degree
Need something translated? This site has language translation software
for English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese. Just type in
a sentence or paragraph and suddenly you can see what it looks like
another language. Nifty. Especially for Americans.
Internet commerce. It has become much easier to convince people to
buy things online using their credit card. "The security concerns
are not what they were six months ago," he says. "They’ve
been improved now to the extent that it’s relatively safe and secure
to order anything."
Which leads to his last point: Don’t operate your website by
rules. "You want to be as current as possible," says
"Or you fall by the wayside."
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.