Defending Against a Sexual Harassment
Over the last several weeks much has been written and stated
about the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. So, what
is an employer supposed to do when it receives a charge of sexual
harassment filed by one of its present or former employees? Many
times, employers reach for the checkbook and try to make the
issue go away by offering a cash settlement. They automatically
believe that there is no way for an employer to effectively fight
this type of legal charge. That would be a wrong impression.
In 1998, the United States Supreme Court held hearings and made
decisions on two very important sexual harassment cases. (Burlington
Industries, Inc. v Ellerth and Faragher v City of Boca Raton).
In deciding these cases, the Supreme Court established several
requirements which must be met in order for a company or business
to potentially win a sexual harassment charge. Many labor attorneys
have dubbed this the Ellerth/Faragher defense, and have actually
won harassment cases based on the company following the Supreme
These guidelines imply that in order to be successful, employer’s
- Distribute a clear and effectively written sexual harassment
policy and complaint procedure. This is usually accomplished
via the employee handbook. The policy must clearly define what
constitutes sexual harassment. Employees must be given several
avenues within the organization in which to report the harassment.
all employees (line employees and management) with regular
(annual) training on the policy.
- Act quickly and appropriately to investigate
and resolve all sexual harassment claims.
- Insure that the harassing
behavior has stopped and, most importantly, that no retaliation
has occurred against the individual who filed the initial report.
policy should also state that when an employee feels that he
or she has been a victim of sexual harassment, the employee
has a responsibility to report or complain about the situation
as soon as possible to an appropriate member of management.
must also remember that while sexual harassment is obviously
illegal, other forms of harassment are also just as illegal and
just as costly. For instance, harassment based on an individual's
age, race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and
disability are also actionable as a potential lawsuit. Training
programs and the original policy should also include information
on these types of harassment.
A company’s best defense against the potential expense
and aggravation related to federal or state law violations is
to proactively review and revise as needed all Human Resources
policies, handbooks, hiring procedures, compensation, benefits,
training programs, communications tools and other functions.
The professionals of PHHR are ready to assist your organization
with this type of training as well as to maintain compliance
with the latest state and federal mandates.
Paul Hilton Human Resources Consulting works with our clients to insure that all required documentation is correct and sufficient to successfully defend against a claim to any unemployment compensation commission.
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