Employees offer an array of creative excuses when trying
to defend their actions in what is known as a hostile work
environment harassment case.
Here is excuse #2 of the top 10 excuses:
“…we didn’t know that she could hear us.”
Accidental harassment usually involves inappropriate
bantering or conduct that may not necessarily be intended
to be heard or seen by others, but does have an impact on
the person who had inadvertently heard the comment or had
seen the behavior/materials.
HR CONTRARIAN POINTER: Management is the “keeper of the
culture.” In the absence of clear direction by
management, employees will fill the void with whatever
work or non-work behaviors they see fit.
It is management’s responsibility to be proactive and let
employees know what is appropriate and inappropriate in
the workplace. The absence of direction from management
can be construed as condoning inappropriate activities,
especially if the activities are common knowledge.
Accidental harassment is like secondhand smoke. It tends
to expand to fill the space allotted. As such, an
employee may have a viable harassment claim even if the
conversations or materials were not about or directed at