There has been a real epidemic of sexual harassment, third party sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct cases coming across my desk in the past several months. Although these cases are not new to our industry, the level of cases from all of our employers has been up significantly. All of our employers are taking this matter very seriously and would rather error on the side of caution and suspend or terminate than give our members the benefit of the doubt.
These cases vary from unwanted flirting, touching, dirty jokes, lewd gestures, as well as consensual acts that take place at the work place by co-workers and managers alike. The dirty jokes and lewd comments and gestures may seem funny or entertaining to your friends, but it could be offensive to someone else that is standing nearby. That person, whether it is a member, customer or even a vendor can register a complaint with the company.
The use of racial slurs in jokes or toward other coworkers has also been a very sensitive issue and the cause of discipline. We have seen an increase of suspensions of members calling each other by some slang, offensive racial term because they think they are friends and it was all in fun. Even though they may be smiling or laughing with you, that response will not exempt you from discipline at some later date.
When you are in the work place you must follow the rules. It may be acceptable behavior in your home or with your circle of friends outside the workplace, but when you cross through those doors it needs to stop. It is very difficult for your union to defend members when they are disciplined for committing these types of acts. Your employer has a duty to its employees and your union expects the employer to have a safe work environment free from harassment and discrimination.
This behavior can cost you your job and is not appropriate in the work place. Your union will continue to investigate grievances for discipline handed out by the employers and verify the validity of any claims that are made. We will do everything we can to ensure that the accused members as well as the alleged victims get treated fairly.