HomeLearnTop Ten Things Practice Administrators Need to Know About Their Equal Opportunity Policy

Submitted Courtesy of Michael Patrick O’Brien
Attorney, Jones Waldo

Part of my employment law practice includes visiting with healthcare organizations and helping them train their employees and practice administrators about employment laws, including laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment. The federal employment laws discussed in this article apply only to employers with 15 or more employees, but some states have similar laws that apply to businesses with fewer employees. Here is my Top Ten List of what I communicate during this training:

1. The long-established (and written) policy  of the Company is to give equal employment opportunities for all terms and conditions of employment to all qualified individuals regardless of their race, color, age (40 and over), sex, pregnancy, gender, disability, genetic status, religion, national origin, ethnic background, military service or citizenship or any other  characteristic protected by applicable law.

2. This includes prohibiting and preventing inappropriate conduct or harassment based  on these same protected characteristics.

3. Examples of inappropriate conduct that might constitute sexual harassment include:

  • Questions or comments that unnecessarily infringe on personal privacy
  • Offensive, sexist off-color or sexual remarks, including posters, emails, cartoons, photographs, pinups, calendars, graffiti, drawings, displays, objects, other material or gestures, insults, innuendos, jokes, slurs, propositions, advances, or comments that disparage a person or group
  • Inappropriate touching, pinching, patting, hugging, pushing, or other aggressive physical contact or threats
  • Unsolicited advances, requests, or demands (explicit or implicit) for sexual favors
  • Insulting or suggestive sounds, including whistling or catcalls
  • Calling a person sweetie, stud, babe, honey, or other similar terms
  • Inquiring about one’s social or sexual life or spreading rumors about another’s sex life
  • Making sexual comments about another’s clothing, body, or looks
  • Making kissing sounds, howling, or smacking lips
  • Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips
  • Intruding upon a person’s body space (i.e., standing closer than appropriate or necessary for the type of work being done)
  • Blocking another’s path, staring at someone
  • Restricting or hindering the other person’s movements
  • Massaging another’s neck, shoulders, etc.
  • Touching another’s clothing, hair, or body
  • Kissing, patting, hugging, or stroking
  • Touching/rubbing one’s self in view of another person
  • Brushing up against another, caressing, patting, or fondling another person.

4. Basically, the policy is all about respect and communication. Management must set the example.

5. This policy applies to work-related activities off premises and to contacts employees have with non-employees while working.

6. If a supervisor observes, receives complaints about, or hears about any conduct that may violate this policy, the incident should immediately be reported to human resources or the president. The Company may be held liable for what supervisors know, so it is essential that information be conveyed to top management as soon as possible.

7. A supervisor should not attempt to investigate any concerns or questions under the policy without the involvement of human resources. Merely obtain basic information and then pass it onto human resources or the president immediately. Don’t label or admit to conduct being sexual or other harassment, simply refer to it as alleged inappropriate conduct until the Company investigates and reaches conclusions.

8. All matters will be investigated and, if necessary, will be promptly and effectively remedied. Employees who violate the policy are subject to discipline, up to and including discharge. Supervisors must be ready, willing, and able to assist in this process.

9. Given the need to investigate, matters raised under the policy must be kept as confidential as possible. Do not make promises of utter confidentiality or agree with employee requests that the Company not investigate a particular matter. Do not discuss such matters with persons with no need to know about them.

10. The Company strictly prohibits retaliation against anyone filing a complaint in good faith. An employee retaliating against someone in violation of the policy is subject to discipline, up to and including discharge. Supervisors must be as vigilant at preventing retaliating as at preventing harassment.

Disclosure: This article is merely informational and is not intended to be legal advice. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Submitted Courtesy of Michael Patrick O’Brien
Jones Waldo

About the Author –

Michael Patrick O’Brien holds degrees from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Utah College of Law, where he has served as an Adjunct Professor of Law. He is admitted to practice before all Utah State and Federal Courts, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and The United States Supreme Court. Mike is a member of the employment sections of the Utah State Bar Association and the American Bar Association. He can be reached at 801-534-7315.


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