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Is your business protected from sexual harassment litigation?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2022 | Business Law & Litigation

As readers of this legal blog know, we often talk about how to avoid litigation that impacts your business. Often, this revolves around external factors to avoid or mitigate. In today’s blog post, we will focus on how to avoid internal litigation.

Specifically, we will focus on protecting your northern California business from sexual harassment litigation.

Establish anti-sexual harassment policies

First, all businesses should have anti-sexual harassment policies. These policies should be clear, in writing and given to every employee, supervisor and management team member.

The policy must specifically prohibit sexual harassment and outline a complaint procedure. The policy should also clearly state that retaliation is also prohibited against victims and witnesses. Everyone should be encouraged to use it, make confidential complaints and it must be followed.

The complaint procedure

The complaint procedure should be easy, as confidential as possible and encourage employees to complain immediately when they witness or experience sexual harassment. There should be at least two people responsible for taking complaints and not just the boss or immediate supervisor.

After all, the boss or immediate supervisor could be the harasser. In addition, there should be a way to complain to a person outside of each employee’s chain of command. Make sure these people are accessible, and everyone should be encouraged to contact them, including supervisors that receive complaints of sexual harassment or witness it.

The investigation processes

When a complaint is received, the investigation should be started immediately. It should be thorough, impartial and follow the policies in place.

It is key that anyone alleged to be part of the harassment or any alleged coverup not be involved in the investigation or have any control (directly or indirectly) of it. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlines investigative techniques and questions to ask.

However, make sure that when complaints come in, the alleged harasser is separated from the victim. Be mindful of how that separation is done because negative actions or additional burdens on the reported victim could themselves qualify as illegal retaliation.

Employers can not always avoid liability in sexual harassment cases, but where there are defenses, they only exist with solid anti-harassment policies and procedures in place. This is where a local attorney can help to ensure litigation mitigation.