BizQuiz: Do you know sexual harassment when you see it?
Take a look at three hypothetical situations and answer the corresponding questions to see if you can recognize sexual harassment at your veterinary practice.
Sheila Grosdidier, Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and veterinary practice management consultant, poses some potential sexual harassment-type situations that could come up in any office. Answer the questions for each hypothetical circumstance to find out how well you're able to identify inappropriate conduct on the job.
Click next to move on to the first question.
Caressable Cara is an incorrigible flirt and has set her sights on Adorable David. Their constant spicy banter has more than a few veterinary team members wondering what’s going on between them and if it’s happening in the building.
As they are both managers—Cara is the front office manager and David manages the technicians—technician Lovable Laura wonders how much of this their team will have to endure. At times, what’s being said between Cara and David is definitely not conversation Laura would have with her colleagues—not even with her close friends over drinks on a Friday night.
The practice owner has told a couple of the team members he’s aware of what’s happening, but he says there's nothing he can do as long as the relationship is mutually reciprocated. Besides a few inappropriate statements, nothing else has happened, according to the team members.
A. Is friendly flirting acceptable between two equally powered persons in a business who are mutually consenting?
B. Could other team members who witness this activity consider themselves sexually harassed?
C. Was the practice owner correct in saying he could do nothing since it was mutual between the equally powered employees?
Amiable Andrea has been with this particular veterinary practice for nine years and things have been fairly peaceful. Dr. Placid Powers always joked about being the only rooster in the chicken house—in the clinic, there are 11 female employees and him, the only male. Then came Lethal Louis. From the moment he arrived, the atmosphere at the practice has been different with his joking all the time about the “girls” and “that time of the month” with Dr. Powers.
After only six months, Louis was promoted to shift leader over numerous team members who had been with the practice several years. Dr. Powers said he needed a stronger hand in management and he was tired of the girl gossip.
When Steady Stephanie stopped Louis in the office and asked about getting Saturday off, he shouted back at her, “You bitches better realize that I run this place now.” With several more offensive statements made, the team decided to put their concerns in writing and submit them to the owner.
A. Is this sexual harassment?
B. What could the owner have done to prevent the issues from escalating?
At the Anywhere Animal Hospital, Secretive Sara, Controlling Connie and Hopeful Heather work in the clinic along with five other kennel assistants. Connie started about six months ago, and on numerous occasions she has walked into a room and seen Sara having intense conversations with two other kennel assistants; they suddenly stop and move away from each other like they want to appear as if they had not been talking. Over the past 90 days, on nine occasions, Connie has also witnessed suggestive touching among Heather and three other assistants.
Two weeks ago, the schedule was changed and Connie was scheduled to work every weekend; mysteriously, the assistants involved in the secret conversations and inappropriate touching aren’t scheduled to work weekends anymore, even though they were hired specifically for those hours. When Connie asks her supervisor Heather about it, she is told that Sara is in charge of the schedule now and takes care of all of those issues; so if there is a concern, go to her.
It isn’t a day later that one of the other non-weekend working kennel assistants stops Connie in the hall, puts her hand to Connie’s face in a caressing manner and tells her that she can help her so she doesn’t have to work another weekend again, saying, “All you have to do is be friendlier.” When Connie goes to Heather to tell her what the other assistant just said, Heather asks, “ … and did you agree?”
A. Is it sexual harassment if the individuals involved are of the same sex?
B. The type of sexual harassment that this situation identifies is:
C. Sexual harassment can only violate an employee’s rights if there is an economic impact on his or her employment. As Secretive Sara has not lost any work hours, she has not suffered any loss of wage and cannot claim sexual harassment.
D. Another kennel assistant steps forward with a sexual harassment claim even though no advancements, change in schedule or other occurrences involving him were reported by Controlling Connie. However, he said he witnessed several of the occurrences Connie witnessed. Does he have the ability to claim sexual harassment?
So, how did you do?
If you had a lot of incorrect answers, it's a good idea to read up on sexual harassment so you're more knowledgeable when problems arise at your veterinary practice. And even if you had several correct answers, it never hurts to study different approaches to these types of situations, as they can take many different forms. Sexual harassment is a very important topic that shouldn't be ignored in any workplace. For resources on how to identify, deal with and prevent related issues at your clinic, check out the links below.