An unwanted wink (or more), could cost you thousands.

Let’s face it, when you mix bodies sweating alongside one another, wearing (at times) revealing clothing, and add in surges of hormones flowing from physical activity, you’ve got a recipe for wandering minds (and sometimes hands), and often locker room behavior that enters the gym floor.

I’m sure you’ve seen inappropriate behavior in health clubs. You’ve seen trainers giving each other back rubs, or staff flirting “harmlessly” with members or other staff members. But you think that’s not harassment. And besides, sexual harassment would never happen in your club.

Think again.

Let me ask you this, what can be construed as sexual harassment? Quiz yourself and let’s see if you can spot what constitutes sexual harassment:

Is winking at a coworker sexual harassment?

Is commenting on a coworker’s sex appeal on social media outside of work considered harassment?

Staring at a coworker. Is that considered sexual harassment?

The answer to all of the questions above is, yes. And it’s costly. In fact, statistics from 2012 show that 1 in 3 lawsuits filed concerned employment claims and the average cost of defending those claims, without going to trial, was $150,000.

Yikes! Guess what? If you are the club owner and operator, i.e. the employer, you hold strict liability for those claims. In other words, owners have absolute responsibility for any damages arising out of the harassment claim. But it’s not just about money. It’s also about your reputation in the community, your values and your brand.

Sexual harassment suits arising out of unwanted or unwelcome sexual advancements, whether verbal, physical or nonverbal, can be avoided and should be. But you have to know the law and most importantly, your employees need to know the law as well. Sexual harassment is a difficult topic and it’s not black and white. So the more you and your staff understand what can be construed as sexual harassment, the better, because a wink may not just be a wink. It could be considered an unwelcome advance.