Does Your Company Have a Plan In Place If An Employee Complains of Sexual Harassment?

February 28, 2018

By: Kimberly Klein

In June 2017, I gave a presentation titled, “Ten Tips to Help Employers Prevent Discrimination and Harassment Claims.”  The presentation occurred after Roger Ailes, the now deceased former chairman of Fox News, and Bill O’Reilly, a popular host at Fox News, had been accused of sexual harassment and terminated, but before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke.  I wish I could say I was prescient that sexual harassment in the workplace would become a movement, but in truth, this is a presentation that I have given from time to time and is always relevant.

Since the #MeToo movement exploded late last year, the topic has caused companies across all industries to reevaluate their harassment and discrimination policies and procedures in the workplace.  The most frequent questions employers ask are:

  • Do we need an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination policy?
  • What does an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination policy look like?
  • We have an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination policy in our handbook, but our handbook hasn’t been updated in ten years.  Has anything changed?
  • What do we do when an employee complains about harassing or discriminating conduct?
  • How do we conduct an investigation when an employee makes a complaint?
  • Do we need to investigate every employee complaint?
  • If we do not have a Human Resources department, who conducts the investigation?
  • What corrective action do we need to take if there is a finding that the conduct was unlawful?
  • Do we need to train our employees concerning the harassment and discrimination laws?
  • What does training look like?
  • Do we train everyone?
  • When should we involve a lawyer?

If you are asking any of the above questions, you are in good company and, more importantly, you are asking the right questions.  And yes, to answer the above, companies need: an Anti-Harassment and Discrimination policy; to update their handbook; to timely investigate bona fide complaints of discrimination or harassment; and to train management.

Knowing what to do – and having a plan in place – can help companies mitigate, if not avoid, costly litigation; protect the company’s reputation; limit liability; and foster a healthier and more inclusive environment.

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For the past two decades, Kimberly Klein has been litigating harassment and discrimination claims, counseling clients in all areas of employment law, conducting harassment and discrimination investigations, and training clients.  For more information, please contact Kimberly at 212.554.7853 or kklein@mosessinger.com.  To attend Kimberly’s next presentation regarding ways to mitigate or avoid discrimination and harassment claims, please email events@mosessinger.com, and we will make sure you receive an invitation.

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