Minimizing Potential Liability for Workplace Harassment Issues

May 28th, 2013 by

John GuptonCAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. One question that the team members often receive deals with workplace harassment—what should our organization be doing to minimize our potential for liability for workplace harassment issues? In today’s post, Advice and Counsel Team Member John Gupton provides a number of solutions for minimizing harassment at your workplace:

In regard to the issue of unlawful workplace harassment, a company must show that it took immediate and appropriate action to eliminate the offensive conduct. Prevention is the best tool for avoiding harassment charges. For this reason, employers should:

  • Maintain a written policy on harassment, communicate it to all employees, and provide multiple avenues for employees to register any complaints.
  • Provide training to supervisors on a regular basis.
  • Make it clear to all supervisors and employees that harassment on the job will not be tolerated.
  • Place particular emphasis on the company’s strong disapproval of this conduct.
  • Require members of management to report any known harassment.
  • Thoroughly investigate any claims of harassment.
  • Provide appropriate discipline in cases of harassment.

Furthermore, under EEOC enforcement guidance, an employer’s workplace harassment policy must prohibit harassment on all protected categories, not just sex harassment (i.e., harassment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, genetic information and disability status). According to these EEOC guidelines, the policy must include at a minimum:

  • A clear explanation of the prohibited conduct.
  • Assurance that employees will be protected against retaliation.
  • The ability to make a complaint to more than just the employee’s immediate supervisor.
  • Confidentiality– to the extent possible.
  • Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations.
  • Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

If you have questions regarding harassment, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

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