Employers and Sexual Harassment

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Employers have certain obligations with regard to the work environment they provide and the well-being and safety of their employees. Protecting employees against sexual harassment is an important responsibility that every employer should take seriously. As a matter of policy, each employee should be asked to read a statement about sexual harassment.  Each person hired should read a statement as part of their employee orientation.

The statement should also be posted in plain sight so that any employee may read it.  It should outline your workplace’s policies on sexual harassment, explaining what it is, and that any accusations of harassment will be invested.  The statement could also list the possible consequences of sexual harassment. It’s important that this statement be posted to make it clear that sexual harassment won’t be tolerated in the workplace.

When a Complaint is Issued

First and foremost, sexual harassment isn’t just demoralizing and upsetting to the person who is a victim of the behavior, it’s also illegal. It’s a form of sexual discrimination, and because employees are legally protected from such employee discrimination cases, a person who is a victim of harassment can file sexual harassment claim against the harasser as well as the employer who fails to protect them from that behavior. So any time an employee complains they are dealing with sexual harassment, you need to take immediate steps to deal with the situation, for the employee’s sake and to protect yourself.

  • Listen to the employee and make it clear that they’ve done the right thing by talking to you. Explain that you’ll take immediate steps to prevent further sexual harassment scenarios and they should let you know immediately of any further incidents, especially any employee retaliation.
  • Make a detailed plan of investigating the claim, and document everything.
  • Write down any sexual harassment information the employee tells you about what occurred. And instruct the employee to write down any incidents including dates and times, and to record future incidents. This information can help you investigate and know who might have been witnesses to the incidents.
  • Inform the accused person that a complaint of sexual harassment has been filed against them and that you’re investigating the matter in a fair manner. And make it clear that no retaliation against the accuser will be tolerated.
  • Ask the accused questions about what happened, and speak to possible witness.  Let both the accused and the witnesses tell you what happened in their own words with out interference. Avoid asking leading questions that require only a yes or no answer.

Making a Decision about Filing a Claim

If you determine that sexual harassment has occurred, then the appropriate consequences should be given according to your existing policy on sexual harassment. It might become necessary to adjust the working environment to avoid contact between the harassed person and the harasser, if the harasser remains as an employee.

If no harassment has occurred according to your decision, then an explanation of how you came to this conclusion, and further employee education on sexual harassment, are important follow-up actions.

Have you or a loved one fallen victim of sexual harassment? If so, contact one of our Sexual Harassment attorneys in your area today!

Updated: H.B.

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