December 13, 2013
The three new rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court imply that an employer may have to take the fall for sexual harassment, even if it’s got all the right policies and practices in place. That’s the bad news. However, if you do all the right things that the best minds in sexual harassment law and training suggest, you’ll have a fighting chance. Here’s what the experts suggest every organization do to protect itself from sexual harassment problems:
- Have a state-of-the-art policy that clearly says your organization won’t tolerate harassment, including harassment between members of the same gender.
- Widely disseminate the policy at regular intervals (annually or more often is ideal), post the policy on your intranet, keep records of when the policy was disseminated and keep signatures on file that employees received the policy.
- Make at least two reporting venues available to employees -- one must be someone other than employees’ supervisors (HR, an ombudsperson, supervisors, managers, 800 number, open-door policy, internal review procedure or others).
- Conduct training for employees, supervisors and managers on anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment policies and practices. Ideally, have the firm’s leader introduce the sessions to nail down the point that senior management is serious about non-discrimination. Make sure everyone understands what constitutes discriminatory behavior and why it won’t be tolerated.
- Investigate all reports of sexual harassment promptly (including harassment between members of the same gender) and ensure that employees who report such misconduct aren’t retaliated against.
- Take swift and appropriate action against employees who are found to have violated company policies on sexual harassment and anti-discrimination.
- Hold supervisors, managers and executives accountable for communicating anti-discrimination and anti-sexual harassment policies and practices to their work groups, and dealing appropriately with any misconduct.
SOURCE: ASAP™, Littler Mendelson employment and labor law firm, San Francisco.
Workforce, October 1998, Vol. 77, No. 10, p. 5-7.