If you’ve seen the news lately, then you probably are aware of the almost weekly allegations of sexual harassment claims against high-profile individuals. These allegations have brought about a heightened sense of awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace to all companies, regardless of industry or size. Which begs the question: Is your company prepared to handle such a claim?
To limit your exposure and reduce your company’s liability in such matters, employers should establish firm human resources practices. To verify your human resources policies and best practices, consider conducting an HR audit. This will allow you to determine whether you have the essential practices and policies in place to stop sexual harassment from occurring or to defend the company in the event that a lawsuit does happen. Here are some practices and policies you want to have in place:
- Anti-Harassment Policy. In your employee handbook, you should have a policy dedicated to harassment. Some key elements of the policy should include the following:
- definition of sexual harassment
- statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated
- statement that any wrongdoers will be disciplined or terminated
- procedures for reporting claims of sexual harassment
- statement that any complaints will be promptly investigated
- statement that retaliation will not be tolerated
- Annual Harassment Training. At least once a year, conduct training sessions for employees. These sessions should teach employees what sexual harassment is, explain that employees have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, review your complaint procedure and encourage employees to use it. Also, at least once a year, conduct training sessions for supervisors and managers that are separate from the employee sessions. The sessions should educate the managers and supervisors about sexual harassment and explain how to deal with complaints.
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance. Employers may also want to consider Employment Practices Liability insurance. This type of insurance can be another useful risk management tool used to defend against a suit or pay a claim.
If you are unsure with what to do next or need assistance with policy development and with your harassment training efforts, the Association’s HR/Legal Services team is here to help. Contact us at 814/833-3200 or 800/815-2660.
Tammy Lamary-Toman, JD, PHR, SHRM-CP, is vice president and employment counsel at the Manufacturer & Business Association. Contact her at 814/833-3200, 800/815-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.