As the calendar turns to 2018, there clearly is a renewed focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. Indeed, from the high profile cases coming out of our political arena in Washington, DC, to the outing of high profile movie producer Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood, to the “Me Too” movement on social media, it is almost a foregone conclusion that these types of claims will only increase across all industries in the coming year. And the construction industry, almost above all others, certainly is not immune; in fact, quite the opposite.
In fact, the biggest survey ever produced focusing on sexual harassment in the work place found that the two industries with the highest rate of incidents were the construction and entertainment industry. According to the survey, 59% of women aged 28-40, involved in the construction industry, have been the subject of sexual harassment. Chew on that for a moment; it means that a woman who chooses to work in construction is more likely than not to be sexually harassed at some point in her professional life. And this was before the events of the last year or so.
There are many different types of behavior that constitute sexual harassment at work and workers need to be made aware of them. Actions that constitute sexual harassment at work include inappropriate touching, making sexual comments or telling sexually charged jokes or stories, and mocking someone based on gender. The important takeaway is that any sexual behavior that contributes to the creation of a hostile workplace is deemed to be sexual harassment.
Indeed, sexual harassment in the construction industry quickly brings to mind images of wolf-whistling and cat-calls, and while this kind of behavior might have been seen years ago as “boys will be boys” letting off steam, the times they are a-changing. Awareness of sexual harassment in 2018 is perhaps higher than it has ever been. And today’s female workforce certainly sees things differently as a result. And while women may make up a far smaller proportion of the workforce in general, and particularly in construction, the fact of the matter is no matter the number differential, women no longer are going to accept being marginalized within the workforce.
Education, training, prevention and remedial measures must start now.
From the moment of hire, employers need to ensure they provide sufficient training in order to educates workers (including management) on the subject of sexual harassment. From management to entry-level workers, all individuals must know they will be held accountable for their actions if they create a hostile work environment.
Sexual harassment is deeply ingrained in the hard-hat industries and it is a problem that demands attention and action – not six months from now, but today.
About the Author
Daniel R. Levine is a Florida Bar Board Certified Specialist in Labor and Employment Law, concentrating his practice on the representation of businesses before federal and state courts, as well as governmental administrative agencies, in connection with the defense of claims involving wage and hour violations, such as unpaid overtime compensation and minimum wages; discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, gender, including pregnancy and sexual harassment, age, and disability; retaliation; the Family and Medical Leave Act; whistle-blowing violations; unfair competition, non-compete agreements and trade secret violations; and employment contract/severance agreements. Mr. Levine also provides services related to general labor and human resource counseling; human resource audits; drafting and/or review of employee handbooks, personnel policy manuals and job classification descriptions; drafting and/or review of employment and independent contractor agreements; sexual harassment and EEO training; and severance package negotiations.
Mr. Levine has been in practice for over twenty 20 years and is admitted to practice before all state courts in Florida. Additionally, Mr. Levine is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit, and the United States District Court, Southern and Middle Districts of Florida. Mr. Levine has been named a “Top Lawyer” by the South Florida Legal Guide since 2012. Mr. Levine has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by the Florida Super Lawyers magazine since 2011. Additionally, Mr. Levine is a Florida Supreme Court and federal court certified mediator, as well as a Florida Supreme Court Qualified Arbitrator.
Mr. Levine frequently lectures on labor and employment law matters and has served on the Executive Committee of the Labor and Employment Law Section of the Florida Bar. Mr. Levine also is a past President of the Federal Bar Association, Broward County Chapter. An active leader in the community, Mr. Levine has served as the 2003-04 Chair for Leadership Boca, Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce, as well as on the Board of Directors for B’Nai Torah Congregation.
Mr. Levine received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in 1992, and his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law, cum laude, in 1995. He lives in Boca Raton with his wife, Corinne, and two children, Benjamin and Elijah.