Best Practices for Employers Regarding Sexual Harassment
In the era of #MeToo, employers need to adopt best practices regarding sexual harassment. At a minimum, adopt a strong anti-harassment policy, periodically train each employee on its contents, and vigorously follow and enforce it. The policy should include:
- A clear explanation of prohibited conduct, including examples;
- Clear assurance that employees who make complaints or provide information related to complaints will be protected against retaliation;
- A clearly described complaint process that provides multiple, accessible avenues of complaint;
- Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible;
- A complaint process that provides a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation; and
- Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.
In addition, it is important to take the following steps:
- Make certain employee signs an acknowledgement of the policy (which should be an acknowledgement of receiving an employee handbook).
- Train, train and train!
- Make certain your managers understand the employer’s policy, and expectations.
- Make the complaint process easy to use.
- Investigate every single complaint regardless of your personal feelings about the person who is complaining or the allegations that are made.
- Investigate immediately (especially if the complaint is against a supervisor – authority to undertake or recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the employee; or authority to direct the employee’s daily work activities).
- Remain impartial – check implicit biases at the door.
- Make certain your policy includes the process if you as the business owner is accused of sexual harassment.
- Document your investigation.
- Assume worst case scenario: defending your investigation to a jury.
- Witness statements should be signed by witnesses.
- Ask complaining employee to list witnesses. Even if no witnesses are provided, interview co-workers. Establish: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
Remember, there is no good reason not to investigate a complaint.
Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP assists business owners with employment issues, including issues involving sexual harassment. Generally, best practices include an employment handbook with a clear sexual harassment policy, training, and following and enforcing your policies.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Spangler and de Stefano, PLLP and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.