Reduce Your Risk of a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
Managing the risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit requires employers to take specific measures to help prevent sexual harassment before it occurs. These measures can be summarized as three part process: (1) establishing a sexual harassment policy; (2) implementing procedures to enforce the policy and (3) enforcing the policy through those procedures. Employers begin by issuing a comprehensive written policy on sexual harassment that sets forth the following:
· the employer’s commitment to eradicate sexual harassment from the workplace;
· how California law and federal law defines sexual harassment;
· list of penalties that the employer will impose against anyone who is found to have sexually harassed another employee;
· how an employee may notify the employer of suspect sexual harassment at the workplace;
· the employer’s promise that all sexual harassment complaints and personnel actions will remain confidential.
Once an employer develops a sexual harassment policy, it should circulate it among all current employees.
An employer’s procedures for enforcing sexual harassment must not require the individual reporting the alleged harassment to make the report to a supervisor who is involved in, condones, or ignores the harassment. As a result, employees must be presented with several ways to report alleged sexual harassment.
The legal protection of sexual harassment policy diminishes depending on how promptly and effectively the employers addresses a report of alleged sexual harassment. To expedite this process, the sexual harassment policy should assign specific personnel to investigate all reports of alleged sexual harassment. If the employer substantiates a report of sexual harassment, it must take immediate action that is reasonably calculated to end the harassment.
Sexual harassment lawsuits pose a significant threat to every California employer. To manage this risk, an employer must take three steps to eradicate sexual harassment from the workplace: (1) establishing a sexual harassment policy; (2) implementing procedures to enforce the policy and (3) enforcing the policy through those procedures. For a modest investment, a California employer could minimize its risk of damages and legal fees arising from a sexual harassment lawsuit.