When Dealing with Sexual Harassment, One Step Isn't Enough
The importance of taking swift and deliberate action in light of sexual harassment claims on the job cannot be overstated. Employers are supposed to take these types of allegations very seriously and make a reasonable effort to investigate the claims and enforce any consequences, if necessary.
However, too many employers make the mistake of thinking that they can do these things and then forget all about an incident involving harassment. This can be an unwise decision as there could still be penalties for employers whose efforts to combat harassment, while present, do not go far enough in protecting employees.
For example, let's look at a recent case involving a woman who was being sexually harassed on the job by her supervisor. She reported the harassment to her employer and the supervisor was immediately suspended for two days.
But just days after the supervisor came back from his suspension, the employer actually promoted him to a position that put him in more contact with the woman who reported him. This, it was argued, completely undermined the message sent by the original disciplinary suspension which was that harassment would not be tolerated.
Ultimately, the employer was required to pay $50,000 in damages to the woman who has since left the company.
This case should remind employers all across Maryland and Virginia that it may not be enough to just discipline employees who are harassing others. Additional efforts may need to be made when it comes to considering where and with whom a problematic employee should work as well as how ongoing efforts can be made to monitor potentially volatile relationships.
Employers are expected to protect employees' rights on the job, but even when employers think they are doing just that, they could be missing the boat. This can have costly consequences which is why it can be crucial to discuss any concerns or questions regarding the enforcement of sexual harassment policies with an attorney.
Source: KARE 11, "Jack Link's to pay $50,000 sexual harassment settlement," July 22, 2015