Alternate Complaint Avenues and Harassment Prevention

By Jon Hyman

Sep. 26, 2013

In a story that reads more like an un-filmed script from The Office instead of an actual workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that it has settled a sexual harassment lawsuit against an Atlanta-area cargo and freight transportation company. The female manager on whose behalf the EEOC filed suit alleged that the company’s owner and CEO subjected her to the following:

The harassment included a barrage of lewd sexual comments, gestures, and e-mails about the employee’s breasts, many of which were sent to other employees in the office. The CEO also kept a pair of rubber breasts on his desk along with a jar of Vaseline, visible to all employees and customers who visited the company facility.

As is often the case when an allegation of harassment involves a senior executive at a company, she claimed that management ignored her complaints.

This story illustrates two important and related points about an effective harassment-prevention program:

  1. A effective anti-harassment policy must provide multiple avenues for an aggrieved employee to complain. Otherwise, an employee will feel powerless if the person to whom a policy directs her to complain also happens to be the alleged harasser. At a minimum, a policy should state that an employee can complain to HR, or to any supervisor, manager, or executive. In an ideal world, a company should also provide a telephone hotline and email account into which an employee can send complaint.

  2. No amount of avenues to complain will make any difference if a company has a culture of covering up complaints levied against members of senior management. A company must take all harassment complaints seriously. It cannot ignore a complaint just because the alleged harasser also happens to be the company’s CEO.

Ensuring that your harassment-prevention program incorporates these two ideas will position your organization to deter and investigate all levels of harassment in your workplace, even that which starts at the very top.

Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Jon at (216) 736-7226 or You can also follow Jon on Twitter @jonhyman.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

What’s New at

blog workforce

Come see what we’re building in the world of predictive employee scheduling, superior labor insights and next-gen employee apps. We’re on a mission to automate workforce management for hourly employees and bring productivity, optimization and engagement to the frontline.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog


Minimum Wage by State in 2023 – All You Need to Know

Summary Twenty-three states and D.C. raised their minimum wage rates in 2023, effective January 1.  Thr...

federal law, minimum wage, pay rates, state law, wage law compliance

workforce blog


New Labor Laws Taking Effect in 2023

The new year is fast approaching, and with its arrival comes a host of new labor laws that will impact ...

labor laws, minimum wage, wage and hour law

workforce blog


Wage and Hour Laws in 2022: What Employers Need to Know

Whether a mom-and-pop shop with a handful of employees or a large corporation staffing thousands, compl...

compliance, wage and hour law