LEARN Holds Workshop On Workplace Harassment

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In today’s work environment, the term “harassment” has a much broader meaning than in years past. With the advent of social media and cyberbullying, workers must be aware of their rights and responsibilities for preventing and handling these offenses. 

On May 10, 2012, Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR) addressed workplace harassment issues and workers’ rights during a workshop held at the Labor Education Center. Approximately a dozen students from SMLR’s Employment Law for Union Representatives program attended the event, led by Rutgers alumni and SMLR instructors Carla Katz and James Cooney and fellow alumni, arbitrator, and mediator Joseph Fine.

“It’s important to train employees and employers to do the right thing,” says Joseph Fine. “If there is a problem, you need to talk about it and really look at the complaint.”

Fine outlined ways in which workers can properly conduct an investigation into harassment and explored federal and state laws prohibiting torment and discrimination.

B.J. Walker, an attendee and staff representative at Rutgers American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers (AAUP-AFT), believes that union representatives play a key role when it comes to these workplace issues. “As a union representative, we are in a unique position to educate both employees and employers about harassment and the responsibilities of both groups,” he says.

James Cooney explained traditionally-known types of sexual harassment, including verbal, visual, and written offenses. While Carla Katz explored newer forms of harassment, including the use of social media by employers seeking to monitor workers as well as employees’ usage of social media for “water-cooler vent sessions.”

“All of the speakers were helpful. Each had different experiences in labor as attorneys or union members, which gave me a more rounded viewpoint and cohesive guideline for dealing with sexual harassment issues,” says Darlene Smith, executive vice president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators and American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT), Local 1766.

Employment Law for Union Representatives is designed to help union representatives understand the basic provisions of federal and state laws and how these laws interact with collective bargaining agreements and union members' rights in the workplace. The program is offered through SMLR’s Labor Education and Research Now (LEARN). Click here for more information on LEARN's Employment Law for Union Representatives program.