A previous blog post discussed sexual harassment in the workplace in the age of the #MeToo Movement. This post discusses steps that an employer can take to avoid liability for harassment, or at least minimize legal exposure.
- Have a Sexual Harassment Policy
An employer should have a clearly articulated sexual harassment policy that:
- expressly prohibits sexual harassment and assault in the workplace;
- defines and provides examples of harassment;
- establishes the scope of the policy in relation to employees and third parties; and
- establishes a complaint procedure for victims or observers to report sexual harassment claims.
- Provide Training
An employer should train all employees, including but not limited to supervisors, on harassment and the employer’s procedure for reporting harassment. Online programs are available, although in-person training is often more effective.
- Investigate Allegations
While employment law does not require a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment in the workplace, an employer should take allegations of harassment seriously by:
- conducting a prompt, thorough, and objective investigation of complaints;
- if warranted, taking prompt and appropriate remedial action in response to complaints; and
- explaining the outcome to the accuser and the accused.
- Avoid Retaliation
An employer should not retaliate or take adverse employment action against an employee who reports harassment, even if the employer’s investigation does not conclusively find that harassment occurred.
- Establish a Workplace Dating Policy
An employer may consider adopting a workplace dating policy. At a minimum, such a policy should require that employees who are dating or otherwise engaged in a sexual relationship conduct themselves in a business-like manner at all times in the workplace. It should also likely prohibit supervisors from dating subordinates and articulate a procedure for reporting workplace dating relationships.
At Bean, Kinney & Korman, we are available to draft or review sexual harassment policies, conduct sexual harassment seminars, conduct investigations of sexual harassment allegations, and provide general advice on harassment to clients.