Tips for Supervisors

Ohio University strives to create a work and study environment that is fair and responsible. As a supervisor you have the responsibility to ensure a positive and harassment-free environment. Behavior that may be appropriate in a social environment might be entirely inappropriate in the workplace; context is everything. Those in authority always carry the element of power in their relationships with subordinates. Here are some tips to remember:

  1. Communicate a positive message about tolerance, respect, and professional behavior in the workplace.

  2. If you are concerned about behavior in your unit, address it right away. Don't ignore it.

  3. Respond. If any kind of complaint is made by an employee, you are required to follow policy and respond. Delaying or ignoring complaints puts the University at risk. Call the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE) with ANY questions in this regard.

  4. Follow policy. Be sure you understand the process outlined in the policy. Don't try to solve the issue on your own. Call OIE for support and advice.

  5. If you become aware of a dating relationship between any two people where one has some power over the other, separate the two employees.

  6. Be alert to problems that may be perceived as a "hostile workplace". This includes employee behavior that needs to be interrupted such as:

    1. discussing sexual activities;

    2. telling off-color jokes, or jokes that demean disabled individuals or GLBT persons;

    3. unnecessary touching;

    4. commenting on physical attributes;

    5. displaying sexually suggestive pictures;

    6. using demeaning or inappropriate terms, such as "Babe";

    7. sabotaging the victim's work;

    8. engaging in hostile physical conduct;

    9. granting job favors to those who participate in consensual sexual activity;

    10. using crude and offensive language.

Hostile environment cases are often difficult to recognize. The particular facts of each situation determine whether offensive conduct has "crossed the line" from simply boorish or childish behavior to unlawful gender discrimination. Generally, a single sexual joke, offensive epithet, or request for a date does not constitute hostile environment sexual harassment; however, being subjected to such jokes, epithets, or requests repeatedly may constitute hostile environment sexual harassment. Because the legal boundaries are so poorly marked, the best course of action would be to avoid all sexually charged conduct in the workplace.

If you need assistance you can call the Office for Institutional Equity for advice or referrals for training.