The Law Offices of Neal Brickman, P.C.
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Proactive approaches to prevent workplace harassment

With the #metoo movement gaining momentum every day, what are you doing to keep your business and employees safe? Sexual harassment laws remain the same, but society has become more aware of this behavior and is unwilling to look the other way when it occurs. Harassment at work remains a problem, and employers need to be proactive in the ways in which it is handled.

Harassment comes with a high cost to business

Many small businesses fail to properly train their employees on what harassment is, which results in training taking place after the company is caught up in litigation. Furthermore, a hostile work environment negatively impacts the bottom line by causing you to lose money through poor reputation and lack of good will, high turnover rates and production inefficiencies.

How much does it cost?

Since 2010, $698.7 million has been paid out to employees through the EEOC’s reporting process according to their 2016 report on workplace harassment. Litigation increases the financial stakes considerably, for example, a jury awarded victims $168 million in a case filed in 2012. Considering the costs involved with defending a claim, you simply cannot afford to not train your employees.

Examine your current system

So, what can you do? Start by examining where your business operations are currently at:

  • Do you have a written policy on harassment?
  • When was the last time you held training?
  • How are employees directed to report incidents?
  • What is the culture of your business? Are all employees held accountable? Or is it simply lower level employees? Take an honest look at how the rules apply at all levels.
  • Is there a system to address harassment in place? Is it given serious time and funding to demonstrate that such acts are taken seriously?
  • Do you have employment practices liability insurance?

After looking at your current system for handling harassment allegations, make changes if needed. For instance, direct reporting to a supervisor is not recommended, because frequently a supervisor or manager is the harasser. Retaliation is common when this type of reporting hierarchy is in place. Consider hiring an employee assistance program to offer services such as a 24 hour hotline for employees to call and discuss potential harassment situations if they do fear retaliation. And importantly, never investigate sexual harassment allegations without the assistance of legal counsel. You can make a bad situation worse by taking this on alone.

Accountability at all levels

If you are going to stop harassment in the workplace, it must be taken seriously at all levels of the company, especially the behavior of those in management and that of supervisors. The way such incidents are handled send a clear message to all employees and act as a deterrent against future acts. Proactive approaches will help you prevent big expenses in the future.

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