Nearly half of accused harassers can return to work

November 14, 2019

EAST LANSING, Mich. - What happens behind the scenes when employees are accused of harassment? New research from Michigan State University revealed that almost half of accused harassers can go back to work when disputes are settled by arbitrators - or, third-parties who resolve disputes.

The findings, published by the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, closely examine the outcomes of arbitration awards involving harassers, as well as providing insight as to whether arbitration is the best solution to addressing workplace harassment.

"With all of the issues our society is facing right now, I wanted to figure out why we weren't doing a better job addressing harassment in the workplace," said Stacy Hickox, associate professor in MSU's School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. "I knew that it was challenging for employees to bring a claim of harassment to employers but wanted to know what employers are doing about actually responding."

Hickox and co-author Michelle Kaminski, associate professor in MSU's School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, examined 60 arbitration cases in which employees accused of harassment were challenging their punishment. In most cases, the employee was discharged and seeking to return to work.

They found that only 52% of the cases upheld the punishment of getting fired. In 13% of cases, the accused harassers were allowed back to work without any punishment. In the other cases, 12% could come back to work with no back pay; 20% of the cases reduced the discipline to a suspension and 2% were reduced to a warning.

"I was very surprised by the number of people who were proven to be harassers and were allowed to come back to work," Hickox said. "It is interesting that the employer's anti-harassment policies play a part in whether the harasser's discipline was upheld. Policies that included specific examples of harassment were more often associated with the discipline being upheld."

The issue, Hickox said, is that accused harassers have rights as well and can claim they were disciplined without just cause. Some return to work because employers fail to provide enough proof that the harassment occurred, while others are reinstated because arbitrators are wedded to employers' policies - with no gray areas. Arbitrators also reinstate harassers because he or she has long tenure with the employer.

"To be sure that these harassers aren't allowed back into the workplace, employers need to look much more closely at harassment policies, as well as the power they give arbitrators in resolving these cases," Hickox said.

Hickox and Kaminski found that in many cases, a company thought their employee accused of harassment should have received a tougher punishment; however, an arbitrator is wedded to the corporate policies and if a company's policy doesn't clearly prohibit the harassment, the arbitrator can't enforce it. Therefore, they recommend that anti-harassment policies be carefully crafted.

While arbitration can serve as a reasonable alternative to taking harassment cases to court, there are challenges that the current arbitration process presents. Arbitration takes place in private, which means that other employees and the public may never know the outcome. Additionally, Hickox said that most employees don't look very closely at new hire paperwork - or what rights they are signing away by agreeing to arbitration of all employment disputes.

"I believe that arbitration is a fair process and can be effective, but I'm a firm believer in consequences," Hickox said. "You can train people on harassment until they're blue in the face, but until there are clearer, more stringent policies from employers, the issue will continue."
-end-
The research was first accepted for publication earlier in 2019 but was printed in September 2019.

Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for 160 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

For MSU news on the Web, go to MSUToday. Follow MSU News on Twitter at twitter.com/MSUnews.

Michigan State University

Related Harassment Articles from Brightsurf:

Do neurosurgeons face sexual harassment in their profession?
Describes sexual harassment in the profession of neurosurgery based on questionnaire results.

Women orthopaedic surgeons report high rates of sexual harassment
More than two-thirds of women orthopaedic surgeons report experiencing sexual harassment during their residency training, according to a survey study in Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research® (CORR®), a publication of The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons®.

Gender harassment and institutional betrayal in high school take toll on mental health
High school students who endure gender harassment in schools that don't respond well enter college and adulthood with potential mental health challenges, according to a University of Oregon study.

Quick fixes won't stop sexual harassment in academia, experts say
Many academic institutions are failing to address the most common forms of gender-based harassment: behaviors that communicate derision, disgust or disrespect for members of one sex or gender group.

LGBTQ military service members at higher risk of sexual harassment, assault, stalking
A recent study found that LGBTQ service members face an elevated risk of sexual victimization including harassment, assault and stalking while in the military than their non-LGBTQ counterparts.

Study explores sexual harassment at AADR conferences
The research assessed perceptions and experiences related to sexual, gender-based and nongender-based harassment among registrants at AADR annual meetings from 2015 to 2018 (n=10,495); examined demographic factors associated with reported experiences; and identified facilitators and potential solutions concerning these types of harassment.

Women in leadership positions face more sexual harassment
Power in the workplace does not stop women's exposure to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment may be reduced at fun work events, study finds
The office holiday party loses its luster in light of new study findings from researchers at Penn State and Ohio State demonstrating that incidences of unwanted sexual attention are increased at these and other ''fun'' work events.

Most physicians and other faculty in large medical center experienced sexual harassment
A new study has shown that the majority of women (82.5%) and men (65.1%) working at an academic medical center reported at least one incident of sexual harassment by staff, students, and faculty during the previous year.

Nearly half of accused harassers can return to work
What happens behind the scenes when employees are accused of harassment?

Read More: Harassment News and Harassment Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.