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Fighting sexual harassment in the franchise industry


Workplace sexual harassment is a serious issue in any type of business. However, in the past few years, a troubling trend of sexual harassment incidents have occurred in some of the country's more easily identifiable franchises. New York franchise employees and employers should pay close attention to this growing threat.

Recently, a former Hardee's employee filed a sexual harassment case against a manager who allegedly made unwanted sexual advances. There have been other instances of big name franchisees embroiled in sexual harassment cases. In 2010, a $2.5 million settlement was paid by a Burger King franchisee to 89 female workers. The employees claimed they were subjected to lewd comments, genitalia exposure and unnecessary strip searches, among other abuses. Subway and Sonic Drive-In franchisees also took the settlement route after harassment complaints against their managers.

To eliminate the threat of harassment, both franchisees and franchisors should employ three steps to protect their workers and their national brand as well. First, educate managers and employees. Proper education can lead to an understanding between superiors and employees on what type of workplace behavior is seen as demeaning and intolerable.

Second, establish an anti-sexual harassment policy. Franchisors and franchisees should lay the ground work in reporting and dealing with harassment. Finally, create a disciplinary process. Do not develop a policy after an incident. A policy should be created before hand and its provisions-violations and other conditions-should be effectively relayed to everyone in the franchise.

If a White Plains franchise fails to protect an employee, the victim of harassment can choose to file a legal action. This course of action not only seeks justice for the disregard of an employee's labor and civil rights, but it can sometimes lead to compensation for damages. The monetary award can help victims deal with lost wages, emotional trauma and other negative effects of the harassments.

Source: Gaebler.com, "Franchising Industry Wrestles With Sexual Harassment," Ken Gaebler, Feb. 26, 2014

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