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Steps Employers Can Take to Prevent and Respond to Claims of Sexual Harassment

High-profile instances of inappropriate sexual behavior and sexual harassment in the workplace continue to grab headlines. While media coverage has focused on cases from the media, entertainment and political arenas, every employer should have heightened awareness of sexual harassment in the workplace at this time, regardless of industry. Of course, the media coverage of the multiple sexual harassment incidents also raises the consciousness of employees on this topic and offers employers an opportunity to engage with them through training and other proactive measures.

As sexual misbehavior, assault, and harassment in the workplace are front-of-mind, here are some steps employers should consider taking today:

  • Examine existing policies and procedures: Employers should look at the current policies they have in place and ensure they provide employees with multiple avenues to report potential harassment.
  • Review current harassment training procedures: Ensure that current training is up-to-date, reflects all legal requirements and is consistent with the organization's core values. Be sure also to review and confirm that all employees have been trained.
  • Refresher Training: Conduct refresher training for current supervisory and non-supervisory personnel in regularly scheduled intervals. In today’s environment, where the national and local commentary is calling into question whether employees can trust employers to handle sensitive claims of inappropriate behavior, training of management-level employees who may be in a position to witness or hear about offending conduct will be more critical than ever.  Likewise, any employees who are responsible for conducting sexual harassment investigations should receive additional training on how to conduct them effectively.

The heightened focus on sexual harassment may unearth new allegations within the workplace. In those instances, employers who become aware of new allegations of sexual harassment should immediately:

  • Conduct prompt investigations: All allegations should be taken seriously and investigations should be handled by well-trained internal personnel or outside investigators (depending on the situation).
  • Act decisively: Depending on the results of the investigation, decisive action should be taken to remediate the offending conduct if it is found to be substantiated. This may include training, disciplinary action, suspension, or termination, depending on the nature and severity of the conduct.
  • Be prepared for litigation: Preserve documents created in the course of the investigation for use in any potential future litigation. 

These are just some of the most critical things to remember as employers contend with a potential increase in allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment in the workplace. Post & Schell can assist employers with all of the above measures – from helping to craft policies and training materials and training supervisory and non-supervisory personnel, to investigating or supporting internal investigators as they conduct investigations and handling any resulting litigation.

Disclaimer: This EFlash does not offer specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. You should not reach any legal conclusions based on the information contained in this EFlash without first seeking the advice of counsel.