Sexual Harassment and Business Liability: How to Protect Your Business

Sexual harassment has taken center stage in the media in recent months. Harvey Weinstein’s allegations has led to over 50 men being accused of sexual harassment. This large-scale awakening has led to many business owners scrambling to find ways to protect their employees.

The issue is so widespread that a 2014 survey found that nearly half of respondents were victims of sexual harassment in some form.

So, how can businesses protect themselves from sexual harassment claims?

Protecting a Business Against Sexual Harassment Claims

Businesses should put policies in place that are to be followed in the event that sexual harassment occurs. Policies should include a few of the most important factors:

  • Enforcement and violations must be outlined
  • Violations must be met with the harshest terms
  • All employees must know the risks for breaking sexual harassment rules
  • Names of victims should be kept confidential
  • Employees must know they can report harassment without fear
  • Claims must be confidentially and thoroughly investigated

All policies must also provide details where sexual harassment claims can be made. This means creating a list of federal and state agencies where complaints can be made. Companies must also ensure that they’re never complicit in sexual harassment.

Policies should be updated to reflect new law developments.

A legal professional is the best source to write your company’s sexual harassment policies.

“Sex crime allegations are not taken lightly by law enforcement. When accusations are made, law enforcement officials take them seriously and devote extensive resources to claim investigations. If they feel like they have a case, the alleged perpetrator will likely face criminal prosecution. Even when allegations are false, an alleged perpetrator is at risk of severe penalties if convicted of the crime,” writes

Familiarize Yourself with Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is not black and white. The broad definition of sexual harassment is: unwanted sexual conduct. There are different forms of harassment. A manager that tells an employee they’ll only get a raise after conducting a sex act will be responsible for sexual harassment.

Hostile environments are even more common.

This means sexual misconduct is at such a level that the harassment has turned:

  • Abusive
  • Hostile
  • Intolerable

Cases that this may include would be persistent comments about an employee’s appearance. Intrusive questions about the employee’s sex life can also be considered sexual harassment. A few instances where this may be true include:

  • Unwanted contact
  • Sexual jokes
  • Sexist remarks

Legal professionals will be able to determine if the events can be defined as sexual harassment.

Review the Effectiveness of All Policies

Policies may have been in place for years, but if they’re ineffective, it’s time for a review. Legal experts are the best source for writing policies, and they can also help review your policies. The responsibility of sexual harassment has been thrust on employers as of late. Employers have a duty to address sexual harassment in a thoughtful, realistic manner.

Policies ought to:

  • Provide examples of conduct that’s prohibited in the workplace.
  • Encourage all employees to report complaints immediately.
  • Make it clear that there will be no retaliation against employees.
  • Provide a clear outline of the complaint process.
  • Make clear that all complaints will be met with the utmost confidentiality.
  • Ensure that appropriate, immediate corrective action will occur.

Employee handbooks should also include an arbitration clause. The clause will be for any employer and employee dispute in an effort to protect the business from bad publicity. All employees must be made aware of policy changes.

Policies must also be given to all employees so that employees can be made aware of all policies relating to sexual misconduct.

A harassment-free workplace is the goal of all employers.

Training employees on the proper conduct in the workplace can go a long way in ensuring that harassment has no place in your business. Training may not be provided to all employees, but it should be given to:

  • Managers
  • Supervisors

These employees will need to know what is expected of them by the company. Managers and supervisors will be responsible for enforcing policies. These professionals will also be responsible for keeping all complaints confidential and for taking the appropriate actions against the accused.

Failing to take complaints seriously can lead to a business being held liable for failing to respond to a complaint. Fast, thorough investigations will further help keep businesses from being liable for not taking complaints seriously.