Several aspects of employee supervision can challenge managers and owners, including the increasingly complex federal and state regulations surrounding employee management. Farm businesses, and in particular livestock operations, which operate year-round and require employee presence on holidays and evenings, offer unique challenges for the prevention of sexual harassment.
The EEOC is responsible enforcing federal laws relating to discrimination and harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of makes it illegal to discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, an amendment to Title VII, made it illegal to discriminate against women because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.
The Equal Pay Act of makes it illegal to pay men and women different wages for equal work in the same workplace. Furthermore, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of makes it illegal to discriminate against persons who are 40 or older because of their age.
These laws also make it illegal to retaliate against employees who complain about discrimination, file discrimination charges with the EEOC, or participate in investigation or lawsuit regarding discrimination. American with Disabilities Act of ADA made it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability.
The ADA is applicable to covered entities, or employers, with 15 or more employees. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for the qualified individual, whether that person is an applicant or existing employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business.
Likewise, there are state agencies charged with enforcing similar state laws. State laws may differ by state and, in turn, from the federal law. For example, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on, in addition to those covered by the EEOC, sexual orientation, military status, marital status, or order of protection status. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with the laws that apply specifically to your operation. Harassment occurs when an employee is the recipient of offensive conduct.
This may include offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance.
To be illegal harassment the conduct must create a work environment reasonable people would find hostile, offensive or intimidating. Generally jokes, minor annoyances, and isolated incidents, unless extremely serious, will not rise to the level of illegal harassment. Discrimination, on the other hand, occurs when employment decisions such as hiring, firing, pay, task assignments, promotions, layoff, or any other term, benefit, or condition of employment are made on the an illegal basis, rather than on job performance.
Thus, the best policy is prevention aka, the best defense is a good offense. How is the on-farm workplace different?
As a farm owner or manager, you should be aware of these factors and take steps to mitigate situations where sexual or other harassment may occur. You are responsible for all parties your employees interact with … Of particular interest for farm businesses is that the person responsible for the harassment need not be your legal employee.
It has implications for lead by example, condoning behaviors, and could potentially be used to provide evidence of a hostile work environment. While many farmers may contest harassment from non-employees being their responsibility, the possibility that such complaints contribute to a situation that leads to costly litigation does exist. Thus, in order to mitigate the legal and financial risks to the business, it is best to be vigilant with all person s interacting within and from outside your business operation.
Definition of Harassment and Examples While sexual harassment is probably the most notorious form of harassment, farm owners and managers should be aware there are other forms of harassment.
The EEOC prohibits various types of harassment and discrimination such as: Mocking an employee for his or her disability to the point that a hostile work environment is created Genetic: Severe harassment based on genetic information, such as a family medical history National Origin: Offensive remarks made to an employee because he or she reported harassment Gender: Offensive drawings directed at a transgendered employee that are so severe a hostile work environment is created Sexual Harassment: A manager makes unwanted sexual advances to a female employee These above examples are not an exhaustive list, but are meant to illustrate some ways in which harassment can occur.
Generally speaking, joking, minor annoyances, and isolated incidents will not be illegal harassment unless they are severe. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that is intimidating, hostile, or offensive to a reasonable person.
Sexual Harassment Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Simple teasing and minor, isolated incidents are not unlawful. However, sexual harassment becomes unlawful when it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. For example, male employees making inappropriate sexual comments about a female employee, may rise to the level of unlawful behavior depending on the frequency, severity and situation where the comments were made such as the female employee preparing to enter a shower facility.
For the wellbeing of employees and protection of your business, it is better to err on the side of caution and strongly discourage comments and behaviors that could form the basis to any harassment or sexual harassment claim.
Steps for Employers Establish an anti-harassment policy which is known, understood and enforced. Whether you are required to have a written anti-harassment policy or not, having one in place can be a valuable tool to prevent and defend against costly lawsuits. Remember an anti-harassment policy is only valuable if it is enforced. Having the policy in your employee handbook, which is read, understood, and signed by every employee, is a logical place to distribute this information.
This makes employees aware of behaviors that are unacceptable and makes employees aware they can report harassment without fear of retaliation. Your anti-harassment policy should define harassment and sexual harassment, explain procedures for reporting it, and outline the consequences of harassing others.
A sample employee handbook containing this information, Swine Employee Handbook , is available from the Pork Information Gateway and is shown below. The Farm Name strongly disapproves of any form of harassment including but not limited to ethnic, religious or sexual harassment involving any of its employees. Actions or remarks involving ethnic or religious animosity, or conduct of sexual nature will not be tolerated. Complaints concerning harassment will be investigated by Farm Name promptly in a confidential manner and the results will be reviewed with the persons involved.
Disciplinary action, up to and including discharge, will be taken against any employee engaging in any form of harassment. Sexual Harassment Sexual harassment is a form of misconduct that can undermine the integrity of the employment relationship. No employee — male or female — should be subjected to unsolicited and unwelcomed verbal or physical sexual overtures or conduct.
Sexual harassment, whether committed by supervisory or non-supervisory personnel, is specifically prohibited. Farm Name is responsible for taking action to effectively deal with all acts of sexual harassment occurring in the workplace or as part of the employment relationship, regardless of the manner in which it becomes aware of the conduct.
This includes the acts of supervisory or management personnel, nonmanagement employees and third- parties. Sexual harassment is defined as either: Unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual activity by a Farm Name employee in a position of power or authority to another Farm Name employee, or Other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature by a Farm Name employee to another Farm Name employee, when: Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used explicitly or implicitly as a condition for employment decisions; The purpose or effect of such conduct is to interfere unreasonably with the work performance of the person being harassed; or The purpose or effect of such conduct to a reasonable person is to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment.
Sexual harassment does not refer to occasional compliments or other conduct or actions that arise out of a personal or social relationship that are socially acceptable and not intended to have a discriminatory effect on employment.
Discipline Violations of this policy by any employee management or non-management will result in appropriate disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. If the complaint involves a manager, report directly to the owner or any board member. If the complaint does not involve a manager, report it to the manager. Upon receiving an accusation of sexual harassment against an employee of Farm Name , Farm Name will investigate and, if substantiated, will initiate the appropriate disciplinary procedures.
There is a fiveyear limitation period from the date of occurrence for filing a charge that may lead to discipline. An individual who makes an accusation of sexual harassment will be informed: At the close of the investigation, whether or not disciplinary procedures will be initiated; and At the end of any disciplinary procedures, or the discipline imposed, if applicable.
Non-Retaliation Policy also prohibits retaliation against any person who brings an accusation of discrimination or sexual harassment or who assists with the investigation or resolution of sexual harassment. Notwithstanding this provision, Farm Name may discipline an employee who has been determined to have brought an accusation of sexual harassment in bad faith. Consider additional training, beyond knowing and understanding the policies in place on your operation for at least owners, managers, and supervisors on your operation.
Ideally, consider including training or seeking opportunities for training outside of your own operation for all employees. Owners, supervisors, and managers should lead by example. Authority figures that harass employees undermine efforts to safeguard the workplace against harassment. More subtle, is the leading by example with regard to the importance of anti-harassment policies.
Fostering communication in a diverse workplace. Owners and managers can foster a more diverse workplace by ensuring language barriers do not prevent employees from understanding what behaviors are unacceptable and their expectations to be free from harassment in the workplace. If you have questions … Federal and state regulations governing employee issues and treatment can be complicated, complex, and change rapidly. If you need advice as to how to locate an attorney familiar with agricultural businesses in your geographic location, consider reaching out to local Extension personnel or commodity organizations for recommendations.
The information in this fact sheet is intended general educational purposes. This fact sheet does not constitute legal advice; usage of the material does not create an attorney-client relationship. Anyone seeking legal advice should contact a licensed attorney in the state s in which their operation does business.