Employment Law Alert – Is Your Anti-Harassment Policy Ready to be Tested?
Since many experts are predicting an avalanche of discrimination claims resulting from the recent media coverage of harassment allegations against many public figures, employers need to make sure they are prepared. We have already seen an increase in the number of employers conducting training to proactively combat such claims. But employers should not overlook a related tool in their efforts to prevent discrimination and harassment liability their anti-harassment policy.
Recently courts have been paying more attention to the defense available to employers in discrimination and harassment claims revolving around the employer’s efforts to prevent and correct harassing behavior. When there is no negative employment action like termination or demotion, an employer may defeat a harassment claim by showing that: (1) it has taken reasonable steps to try to prevent harassment from occurring and to address/correct harassment if it occurs; and (2) that the employee failed to take advantage of the employer’s procedures. Therefore, the necessary first step is having an effective anti-harassment policy.
At a minimum, an effective anti-harassment policy should be updated to make sure all protected classes of employees are covered. It should further provide an effective reporting process with multiple persons identified for receiving complaints; provide for prompt investigation and handling of all complaints made under the policy; and ensure no retaliation for reporting of instances of suspected harassment or discrimination. When accompanied with efforts to ensure that employees are made aware of the policy, periodic training geared towards educating employees on the avoidance of harassment, and adherence to the policy in investigating and remedying complaints, courts have found that such employers have, in some cases, met their obligations to their employees when it comes to harassment and discrimination.
Employers should review and update their anti-harassment policies to make sure they comply with the law and meet the employer’s needs. And, by all means, if there is no policy, implement one immediately. At Kaufman & Canoles, we are dedicated to keeping our clients informed of important legal changes like these and to helping them to take proactive HR measures. Towards that end, join us at the Richmond showing of our 34th Annual Employment Law Update on March 22, 2018, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, where some of the hottest topics in employment law, including workplace harassment, will be presented. To register or for more information, click here. In addition, members of our Labor & Employment Team are readily available to assist you with any immediate needs you might have regarding employment law.
The contents of this publication are intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts and circumstances. Copyright 2020.