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Strategies for dealing with sexual harassment at work

Claims of harassment and discrimination based on any of the legally protected classes are always present in the national news. A former celebrity chef recently battled claims of racial discrimination at one of her restaurants while the mayor of a large American city has been confronted by multiple women alleging sexual harassment. Harassment and discrimination happen right here in New York, and employers can take some important steps to help their employees from becoming victims of harassment.

An employment law expert recommends that all employee complaints of sexual harassment be formally filed within the organization. This means that if a supervisor receives a report of harassment verbally from an employee, that supervisor should file the report on his or her own. Filing reports of harassment in writing creates a record of incidents that are happening within the organization.

Additionally, all claims of sexual harassment should be objectively investigated within the organization. While not all claims will prove to be true, treating each claim equally and investigating them fully can both help restore confidence in the harassed individual and bring notice to the possible aggressor that his or her lewd comments, inappropriate behavior or other harassing conduct will be discovered.

Finally, employers should consider establishing sexual harassment training sessions that are required of all employees. Though some employees may find the content of the training disturbing and others may object to being forced into such a course, providing on-site employment sexual harassment training establishes an employer's expectations for conduct and puts employees on notice of what will not be tolerated.

Though following the above-mentioned recommendations will not prevent all cases of workplace sexual harassment, they may help some employees avoid the often embarrassing and harmful effects of victimization. Sexual harassment is a serious legal offense and individuals who have or are suffering from it at their places of employment have rights to stop their aggressors and work in an environment free of abuse.

Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Labor Law: Dealing with workplace claims of sexual harassment," Karen Michael, August 11, 2013

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