The recent string of sexual harassment allegations in Hollywood has ignited many needed conversations and social movements, such as the “Me too” movement. Sexual harassment occurs in different settings, including the workplace. According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a government agency responsible for processing the sexual harassment complaints that get reported, nearly one-third of the 90,000 complaints received in 2015 included a harassment allegation. For obvious reasons, it is important to stay up to date on the topic in order to know what steps to take against it in order to eradicate this problem.
What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination made on the basis of membership in a protected class, such as race, color, and sex (including pregnancy or gender non-conformity.) There are two classifications for sexual harassment; quid pro quo and hostile work environment. In the former, the employee is subject to unwelcome conduct or advances. An example is an employer giving the employee a promotion in exchange for sexual favors. The latter occurs when the employee is subjected to conduct that is physically threatening, humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance.
How it can impact your business One of the biggest misconceptions about sexual harassment in the workplace is that it can only occur within the walls of the office. This, however, is far from the truth since the harassment may extend outside of the office doors. An employer can be automatically liable for harassment committed by a superior, between co-workers, or third parties contracted by the employer.
Some of the ways that a business can suffer from a harassment claim include, compensatory and punitive damages, high employee turnover, time consuming investigations, costs to employees, and a damaged brand. For these reasons, it is imperative to take precautionary measures in order to eradicate this behavior within the workplace.
Best policy practices
There are different strategies for business owners and employers to adopt in order to limit liability and create a harassment free work environment:
- Have an open-door policy.
- Provide different options for complaints.
- Do not require complaints to be to the immediate supervisor.
- Awareness programs or seminars for employees and supervisors throughout the year addressing the topic
Upon receiving a complaint of sexual harassment, an employer should promptly investigate and take reasonable actions. Regarding the offender and victim, this can include:
- Oral or written warning or reprimand.
- Transfer or reassignment.
- Monitoring to ensure no retaliation.
- Paid leave for claimant.
The Kendrick Law Group is available to assist with any questions you may have relating to sexual harassment policies in the workplace.
Contact us at 407-641-5847 or email info@KendrickLawGroup.com.
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