Still, a federal appellate court recently reminded us (here) that, indeed, bad things happen when, every week for several months, a male supervisor tells his female subordinate that her husband is “not taking care of [her] in bed.”
Though not threatening, they were more than merely offensive. For a male to say to a female employee under his supervision that her husband was “not taking care of [her] in bed” is the sort of remark that can readily be found to be a solicitation for sexual relations coupled with a claim of sexual prowess and can just as readily be found to have been perceived as such by the female employee. The weekly repetition of such a remark over several weeks only served to reenforce its offensive meaning and to make sexual intimidation, ridicule, and insult a pervasive part of Desardouin’s workplace, effectively changing the terms and conditions of her employment….The allegations of repeated solicitation of sexual relations in a vulgar and humiliating manner suffice to warrant a trial.
I’ll use this obvious blunder to raise a subtle screw-up of which you may unwittingly be guilty. Check the complaint procedure in your non-harassment policy. Does it provide that an employee who feels that he/she is being harassed must report the harassment to an immediate supervisor or manager? Because that wouldn’t do much good in the situation discussed above.
Instead, make sure that your complaint procedure affords employees a variety of reporting options (e.g., a direct supervisor, another supervisor, Human Resources, etc.).