Century Furniture Company
Hickory, North Carolina
Frequently Asked Questions
What is workplace harassment?
Workplace harassment is any unwelcome or unwanted conduct that denigrates or shows hostility
or an aversion toward another person on the basis of any characteristic protected by law, which
includes an individual's race, color, gender, ethnic or national origin, age, religion, disability,
marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other personal characteristic protected by
law. A conduct is unwelcome if the employee did not solicit, instigate or provoke it, and the
employee regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive.
What is sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that involves unwanted or unwelcome conduct
of a sexual nature. This applies to harassment by a person against another person of the opposite
sex as well as harassment by a person against another person of the same sex. The California Fair
Employment and Housing Act defines sexual harassment as “harassment based on sex or of a
sexual nature; gender harassment and harassment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related
medical conditions,” and includes many forms of offensive behavior.
Why is harassment illegal?
Workplace harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the California Fair
Employment & Housing Act. Both the federal and state laws impose liability on employers for
failing to remedy or prevent a hostile or offensive work environment of which management
knew or should have known about the workplace harassment.
When does harassment occur?
Harassment occurs when an employer creates, condones or permits a hostile, intimidating or
offensive work environment. That may include discriminatory treatment and/or retaliation for
filing a complaint or participating in an investigation.
What is the obligation of Century Furniture in preventing harassment in the workplace?
Century Furniture will take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination and harassment
from occurring. If harassment does occur, Century Furniture will take immediate and
effective steps to stop further harassment and correct any effects of the harassment.
Century Furniture has developed and implemented a harassment preventive policy. The
policy describes the types of prohibited behavior, provides complaint procedures to
follow, explains the investigation process, provides assurance that prompt and effective
corrective action will be taken, and ensures that there will be no retaliation for either
filing a complaint or for participating in an investigation.
Century Furniture also educates its employees as to the kind of behavior that is to be
avoided. Century Furniture tells employees that it is against company policy and against
the law to harass another person in the workplace.
Century Furniture has a mechanism to prevent and promptly correct any sexual or other
What will management do when there is a harassment problem in the workplace?
Management will conduct an immediate and thorough investigation, followed by an appropriate
remedy to correct the problem. This includes disciplining or terminating the harassing
employee. If the individual doing the harassing is not an employee, the employer must address
the problem directly with that individual and/or organization that he/she represents, and insure
the conduct is stopped immediately. The employer’s response must be reasonably calculated to
end the harassment and prevent it from happening again.
What is “quid pro quo” sexual harassment?
“Quid pro quo” (this for that) harassment occurs when an employee is offered some job benefit
such as promotion, pay raise, etc., in return for sexual favors or is subjected to some adverse
action because of a refusal to submit to a request for sexual favors.
What is “hostile work environment” sexual harassment?
“Hostile environment” harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome or
unwanted sexual conduct that is sufficiently pervasive or severe to alter the terms or conditions
of the employee’s employment, such conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work
performance or creates an abusive, intimidating, offensive or hostile work environment. A
manager, supervisor, co-worker, or even a non-employee such as a vendor, customer or third
party can create a hostile environment.
What can happen if a supervisor does not take the employee’s complaint of harassment
A supervisor places the company in jeopardy. Ignoring the problem may be construed as an
admission that the company intentionally failed to act. Supervisors should take any comments or
statements of harassment seriously, no matter how casual, and report the incident to management
so that a prompt and thorough investigation can be conducted.
What are some examples of workplace harassment?
Workplace harassment can take many forms including, but not limited, to these examples:
Verbal – Sexual innuendoes and other suggestive comments; racial or ethnic slurs;
humor, jokes or teasing about sex, race, age, religion, disability or gender-specific traits;
repeated requests for dates; sexual advances or propositions; comments about a person’s
body, dress, excessive flattery or questioning of a personal nature; abusive language or
insults; or threats.
Visual or Non-Verbal – Leering or staring in a sexual manner; whistling or hooting;
suggestive or insulting looks; vulgar sounds or gestures; offensive or hateful pictures,
posters, calendars, cartoons or obscene e-mail; excessive attention in the form of love
letters or gifts; or offensive or derogatory written materials.
Physical – Inappropriate touching of the body (e.g., brushing, patting, hugging, pinching
or shoulder rubs); kissing or inappropriate display of body parts; coerced acts of a sexual
nature; physically blocking another individual’s movement, assault; exclusionary or
demeaning actions or activities based on age, ethnicity, sex or race.
How does one know if an offensive conduct or harassing behavior has created a hostile
Harassment must be viewed in its totality. Mere discourtesy, rudeness or lack of sensitivity
should not be confused with harassment. The harassing behavior must be sufficiently severe or
pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working
environment. The more severe the conduct, the less pervasive it must be. The required showing
of severity varies inversely with the frequency of the conduct. A single incident, simple teasing,
off-hand comments or isolated instances of offensive sexual conduct or remarks generally will
not be sufficient to create a hostile work environment. A hostile environment claim generally
requires a showing of a pattern of offensive conduct. However, a single severe incident of
harassment can be a violation of the law, particularly when the harassment is physical or quid
What factors determine whether an environment is “hostile?”
The EEOC has established the following factors to determine whether a hostile work
environment has been created:
Whether the conduct was unwelcome or unwanted;
Whether the conduct was verbal or physical, or both;
Whether the conduct was a one-time occurrence or was repeated (e.g., continuous period
Whether the conduct was hostile and offensive;
Whether others joined in perpetrating the harassment; and
Whether the harassment was directed at more than one individual.
How can an employee make sure that his or her conduct is appropriate at all times?
Avoid behavior that demeans, degrades, abuses or shows disrespect to any individual.
Recognize that the same remarks or gestures that seem acceptable to some people may be
embarrassing or offensive to or unwanted by others.
Consider how you would react if the same behavior were directed toward your spouse or
Ask yourself whether you would act the same way in front of your spouse, significant
other, or child.
Ask yourself how you would feel if your behavior were captured on video, reported in a
newspaper, or featured on the nightly news.
What should an employee do if he or she is harassed by another person at work?
Often, the most effective method to put an end to harassment is to tell the person to stop. Let the
person know the action is unwelcome. Be direct and say something like “I’d like to keep our
relationship strictly professional” or “I think ethnic jokes are offensive, so please do not tell them
in my presence.” Ignoring the situation will not make it go away. If the direct approach does not
solve the problem, then report the situation to a supervisor, a human resources representative or a
member of management. Another alternative is to contact your Employee Assistance Program,
(the Counseling Group, 828-322-9130), and speak with one of the professionals about your
concern. They may be able to help you with a plan of action to deal with the situation
What if a supervisor is harassing the employee?
The employee is not required to report harassment to a supervisor who has engaged in
harassment against the employee or who is a close associate of the person who has engaged in
the harassment. In this situation, the employee should report the problem directly to human
resources or a member of management to handle the problem.
What happens after the employee has reported harassment?
Each report of harassment will be evaluated on an individual basis. Management will need the
employee’s full cooperation to thoroughly review and investigate the problem. Throughout the
process, confidential or sensitive information will be shared only with those who have a need to
know. After the investigation, an employee who is found to be in violation of the company’s
policy on harassment will be subject to appropriate corrective action, up to and including
termination. Management will advise the employee who has been harassed of the results of the
investigation. Retaliation against any employee who reports a problem or files a complaint of
harassment, or anyone who participates in the investigation will not be tolerated.
What can the employer do about a complaint of harassment that occurred after work and
away from company premises?
Generally, the company should not intrude or become involved with the private lives of
employees. However, supervisors may be viewed as company representatives when off the job,
depending upon the circumstances. If there is a report or complaint of supervisory harassment,
the company should look into the matter and ascertain if the employee’s outside activity has a
nexus to the workplace or a harmful effect on the employer’s operation.