Sexual Harassment In the Age of #Metoo
February 5, 2018
As an employer what can you do to protect yourself and your company from a lawsuit involving a sexual harassment claim? The best answer is to prevent incidents giving rise to claims through education. Speak to your employees regarding sexual harassment and how to recognize it. Have them understand that words need not be used to constitute harassment and that an unnecessary look or under the breath comment can get them and the company in a serious bind. Even if they are made off the clock, offensive comments or conduct (verbal comments, texts, emails, physical acts or even gestures) between employees can lead to harassment claims against a company. It is just as important a preventative measure that employees who are subjected to harassment or uncomfortable situations should feel a sense of security in reporting these incidents to their employer and that prompt and appropriate steps will be taken in response to a report. One thing that recent history has taught us is that if employees feel that reporting a perpetrator of this type of conduct will be futile, the perpetrator will continue to break the law and thus subject the employer, who in many instances may not even know that is has a problem in its midst, to even greater financial and legal peril.
Make sure your employees know what they cannot do and that employees who are subjected to words or conduct that could be considered harassing or discriminatory feel comfortable if not compelled to report it to their employer. Post Polak is available for seminars regarding sexual harassment as well as educational seminars involving workplace discrimination of all types. We can also assist employers in drafting employment manuals and policies and procedures for addressing discrimination or harassment allegations. Having such policies and procedures in place and the dedication to following them, is especially critical in the event that any situation evolves into a claim or lawsuit.
Having a work force that knows its employer can be freely contacted about disturbing situations and that its employer is properly prepared to deal with them, is indeed the employer’s best defense against, claims, lawsuits, and public relations nightmares.