#MeToo – Is Your Company Protected Against a Sexual Harassment Claim?

#MeToo – Is Your Company Protected Against a Sexual Harassment Claim?

So many claims of sexual harassment and misconduct have been in the news lately…Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, etc.  You may have also seen #MeToo on social media posts with friends, colleagues, family members, and acquaintances posting that they have been victims of sexual harassment or misconduct at some point.  So, what can companies do to minimize the risk of a sexual harassment or misconduct claim?

  • Ensure you have a zero tolerance Anti-Harassment Policy in place which defines what harassment is.
  • Make your employees aware of the policy and proper procedures through new hire orientation, periodic workplace training, and a handbook policy which is disseminated to all staff, signed, and retained in each employee’s personnel file.
  • Train your managers on what to do if they see or learn of harassment (your company may be liable if it knew or should have known about the harassment). Take all complaints seriously and report them to Human Resources.
  • Have at least two or more people to whom employees can report a claim of harassment (in case one of the people is the alleged harasser)
  • Once you learn of a concern, report it immediately to Human Resources so that a prompt and thorough investigation can occur. Investigative findings and any actions taken should be documented.
  • Ensure the harassing behavior stops as soon as possible and, if necessary, suspend the alleged harasser pending investigation.
  • Do not retaliate against the claimant or witnesses to the investigation (retaliation includes a tangible employment action like demotion, termination, reduction in pay or benefits, failing to promote, reassignment, a significant change in responsibilities, undesirable reassignment, etc.)
  • Take disciplinary action, up to and including termination, if inappropriate behavior was found to have resulted. Some considerations for the level of disciplinary action include whether there is a history of inappropriate behavior by this individual and the severity of the situation.  For example, a first occurrence of sexual assault would be warrant stronger disciplinary action than a first occurrence of telling an inappropriate or off-color joke.
  • Follow-up periodically with the victim to ensure that the inappropriate behavior has stopped and is not recurring.

If you have questions about the steps outlined above or would like to discuss further, please reach out to your Kistler Tiffany Benefits’ Employee Benefits Consultant for additional HR resources.