Takeaways From the Dallas Mavericks’ Sexual Harassment Scandal

Why might sexual harassment occur in a workplace despite clear company policies forbidding it?

This past February, an article came out in Sports Illustrated revealing disturbing instances of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct in the office of the NBA team the Dallas Mavericks.  Following release of the article, several serious investigations were launched. Allegations regarding a hostile workplace and unwanted sexual advances by staff swirled, all despite a company policy in place banning such practices.  Our NYC employment discrimination lawyers discuss what lessons employers can learn from the Mavericks sexual harassment scandal and how you can prevent like misconduct in your workplace.

Hostile Work Environment and Quid Pro Quo Harassment

There are two main types of sexual harassment claims, a hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. The Dallas Mavericks have been accused of allowing both forms of sexual harassment to occur in the workplace.  It is important for employers to understand each form of harassment so that they can develop policies to prevent sexual harassment.

A hostile work environment occurs when speech or conduct within a workplace is so severe and persistent that it creates an intimidating work environment.  A hostile work environment could be caused by repeated sexual jokes, offensive pictures around the office, and other instances of pervasive sexism.

Quid pro quo harassment, on the other hand, is defined as demanding sexual favors in exchange for a work related benefit or to avoid punishment.  For instance, a supervisor offering to promote an employee under him if she goes on a date with him. At times, quid pro quo and hostile work environments can go hand in hand.

Discouraging Reporting and Failing to Correct Bad Behavior

One of the first steps towards preventing sexual harassment in your workplace is creation of a strong policy defining and banning the practice.  As the Dallas Mavericks case illustrates, however, this is often not enough. In the Mavericks’ office, harassment flourished despite a company policy against it.  Investigations traced the problem to two important matters: employers discouraged employees from reporting sexual harassment and the company allowed known bad behavior to continue.  

An anti-sexual harassment policy is only effective if employees who are being harassed know who to report to and feel they can report issues without retaliation.  To ensure reporting, employers must respond and investigate all complaints. Employees must never face retaliation for filing a claim. Further, employers need to take prompt action when they uncover instances of sexual harassment.  Contact an employment discrimination lawyer for more assistance if you feel you are a victim of workplace harassment.