A previous blog post discussed sexual harassment in the workplace. This post discusses steps that an employer can take to avoid liability for sexual harassment, or at least minimize legal exposure.
1. Have a Sexual Harassment Policy
An employer should have a clearly articulated sexual harassment policy that:
- expressly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace;
- defines and provides examples of sexual harassment;
- establishes the scope of the policy in relation to employees and third parties; and
- establishes a complaint procedure for victims or observers of sexual harassment.
2. Provide Training
An employer should train all employees, including but not limited to supervisors, on sexual harassment and the employer’s procedure for reporting sexual harassment. Online programs are available, although in-person training is often more effective.
3. Investigate Allegations
While the law does not require a “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment in the workplace, an employer should take allegations of sexual 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.
4. Avoid Retaliation
An employer should not retaliate or take adverse employment action against an employee who reports sexual harassment, even if the employer’s investigation does not conclusively find that sexual harassment occurred.
5. 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 sexual harassment to clients.