Is There a Bully Hiding in Your Business?
Preventing Harassment in Your Company
By Casey Cone, PHR
The potential for harassment, including bullying and sexual harassment, exists in every workplace.
While we often think of the term “harassment” as just “sexual harassment,” in today’s workplaces, it means much more than that. As just one example: we’ve seen more and more cases of traditional bullying being reported in workplaces as awareness of its impact increases.
Harassment is a costly proposition for employers. It can result in low morale, absenteeism, reduced productivity, employee turnover, damages and litigation costs. In 2015, there were 89,385 EEOC claims, of which 6,822 were sexual harassment claims totaling $46 million in judgments. Through increased communications about the cost and effects of harassment, total claims have fallen, although the cost has dramatically increased and sexual harassment claim rates have risen. In 2018, there were 76,418 EEOC claims, 7,609 of which were sexual harassment claims totaling $56.6 million in judgments.
What is sexual harassment?
By definition, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. When submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions, it has the purpose or effect of interfering with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. Any form of this presents a clear opportunity for an EEOC claim.
Several states, including New York and California, have implemented mandatory training requirements to prevent several types of harassment. Additionally, some states, including New York, require employers to adopt sexual harassment prevention policies and/or post applicable notices.
What can you do to prevent harassment in your company?
- Ensure you are following all applicable state and local laws regarding harassment prevention in the workplace
- Implement a policy prohibiting discrimination and harassment
- Update your current policy
- Introduce a procedure for reporting claims of harassment
- Train employees and supervisors on appropriate conduct
- Communicate policy to all employees:
- What constitutes harassment
- Where to go to report harassment
- Existence and contents of the policy
- Investigate every report that is received:
- Whether or not an employee formally reports
- Even if employee asks that no action be taken
In the event a current or former employee files a lawsuit against the employer due to wrongful termination, sexual harassment, or other types of similar claims, the employer can receive financial protection from an employment practices liability insurance policy.
If you have any questions on EEOC compliance or would like to discuss how we can assist you, please contact me by email at CCone@OneGroup.com or by phone at 315-413-4415.