Communicate Policies Clearly For Staff And Translate, If Necessary

ABM Industry Groups, LLC (ABM), a facility management services company, will pay $310,000 in compensatory damages to settle a class action sexual harassment lawsuit.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against the organization, alleging managers had sexually harassed female janitorial staff. It sued after investigating the allegations and finding reasonable cause to believe the employer violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The employer "subjected a class of female employees to persistent sexual harassment, including unwanted touching and sexual advances, vulgar phone calls, unwelcome sexually explicit gifts, and creating a hostile work environment," according to the allegations contained in the lawsuit.

The parties reached the settlement through the EEOC's pre-litigation administrative conciliation process. The 42-month conciliation agreement settling the lawsuit requires the employer to designate an equal employment opportunity consultant to oversee that training and reporting complies with Title VII and the agreement.

ABM also agreed to maintain a centralized discrimination complaint repository system; revise its discrimination and harassment policies and its investigation procedures; and increase distribution of company policies.

The employer will provide a Spanish translation and Spanish audio recording of its EEO policies, as well as pictorial graphics of the company's sexual harassment policy. It further agreed to create a video showing acceptable workplace behavior, bystander intervention, and examples of prohibited sexual harassment.

ABM will also provide employees with a reference card containing the phone numbers for its compliance hotline and employee relations. It will train janitors, cleaners, and other similar employees annually; conduct surveys; adopt standard operating protocols; work toward increasing the number of female supervisors and managers; and monitor compliance with the agreement. "ABM Industry Groups to Pay $310,000 to Settle EEOC Class Sexual Harassment Charges" eeoc.gov (Sep. 16, 2021).

Commentary and Checklist

If you have staff that speaks a language other than English, then you must have your policies translated into their language. If staff are illiterate, you must communicate policies orally.

Here are some more communication tips for family employers to reduce their exposure:

  • Always communicate in a positive manner.
  • Meet with staff regularly to discuss their goals.
  • Respectfully give staff feedback and ask staff for their feedback.
  • Listen to staff feedback and encourage staff to communicate openly about any concerns they may have.
  • When discussing a difficult topic, train staff to be honest, direct, and prompt.
  • Do not allow conflicts to continue unaddressed and negatively impact the family work environment.
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