Every company dreads the idea of being dragged into a sexual harassment lawsuit over the alleged misconduct of an employee. Taking active steps to minimize the chances of this occurring in your company will be worth every dollar.
If you are forced to defend a sexual harassment lawsuit, your company might be on the hook for a costly settlement. In addition, the individual directors or employees involved can also be personally liable. What can you do, then, to protect your company and your employees?
Make sure that your company is proactive about anti-harassment training
California has a law that mandates essential sexual harassment training for companies. Luckily, training that fulfills that legal requirement is available for free from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. This means that you won’t have to have your human resources department and legal department take the time to put together the training.
However, if you really want to minimize the chances of a sexual harassment lawsuit springing up in your company, it probably isn’t enough to do the bare minimum to satisfy the legal requirement. You can take proactive steps to make sure that sexual harassment prevention becomes a concrete part of your company culture.
Be sure your employees understand what the company expects of them
You can help to embed these standards into your company culture by displaying them prominently in the break room, at the water cooler or anywhere else where employees will see them often. You can also review them during company-wide meetings or through periodic email bulletins.
If a sexual harassment complaint arises, it is important that you ensure that your managers take no retaliatory action against that employee for their complaint. Show your employees that you take their complaints seriously, and that you will investigate the situation thoroughly, instead of ignoring or silencing them.
Lastly, make sure that your employees understand that your sexual harassment policies extend to events held after work hours. Although company retreats or dinners can be an important time for employees to be able to relax and build camaraderie, they are not opportunities to engage in behavior that would be inappropriate during work hours. This can be a particular concern if alcohol is available at the after-hours activity.
There is no silver bullet that will guarantee a company protection from sexual harassment allegations. But a smart and pro-active employer can take steps to minimize the chances of one occurring, thus saving the company – and its employees – a lot of stress and financial strain.