New York’s attorney general announced that a settlement had been reached between eighteen former employees and a construction contractor, in a sexual harassment suit. The suit alleges that the contractor, Trade Off LLC, subjected its workers, primarily women of color, to “severe” quid pro quo harassment. The women said the managers demanded sexual acts in return for pay and overtime opportunities.
The attorney general’s office also said that the company managers “failed to take adequate action in response to complaints, and in fact, repeatedly protected harassers from punishment.”
According to human resource experts, HR departments at construction firms should train managers to listen for harassment complaints, acknowledge them, and escalate through the proper channels. If HR follows up with an investigation and action that is reasonably designed to stop the alleged bad behavior, the contractor will be in a good position to defend itself from legal trouble in the future.
But contractors should go a step further, said Elizabeth Bille, senior vice president of workplace culture at EVERFI, and they should work to make sure that the harassment never takes place to begin with. These efforts revolve around bystander intervention and clear messaging, all of which need to originate with leadership.
"You've got to have CEOs and chairs of the board, leadership [and] managers" addressing the issue meaningfully, Bille said, "not just once a year but all the time."