In New York and throughout the United States, sexual harassment and how it impacts employees has taken center stage in the news regarding how the issue has been ignored for so long. Employers are commonly held responsible for the behavior of people in the workplace and are forced to deal with lawsuits and take steps to tighten up policies so it does not happen again. This is when it is imperative that employers understand the minimum standards to prevent sexual harassment so they are shielded in case allegations do crop up. Having legal assistance in these cases is not just important for the victim, but for the employer as they might be blameless.
Although there are many instances where an employer is responsible either through tacitly allowing the behavior to take place or by sheer ignorance, there are also situations where the employer did everything they reasonably could and are being wrongly blamed. In some cases, the allegations of sexual harassment are overblown or fabricated. If an employer has the basic policies required by law, it can go a long way in combating claims of sexual harassment and shield them from an extended legal battle.
The Department of Human Rights and the Department of Labor have crafted ways to prohibit sexual harassment. Employers must follow this guidance. When educating employees about sexual harassment and crafting employee handbooks, there must be examples of what constitutes illegal sexual harassment. Information regarding state and federal law must be provided in the employment packets. Employees must have a complaint form available to them.
The workplace must have a set of procedures so complaints can be investigated in a timely and confidential manner so all parties can be heard. Employees must be informed of their rights to correct the situation and harassment allegations are handled. Employees must understand that sexual harassment is a form of misconduct and there will be sanctions for it and penalties to supervisors who allow it to go on unchecked. Employees must understand the retaliation against those claiming they have been sexually harassed cannot take place.
Although taking these steps will not prevent or disprove allegations of sexual harassment from employees, it will provide a layer of protection if the case moves forward and employers are caught up in the accusations of not having taken the necessary steps to protect employees. A law firm that has experience in employment law for employers can help with crafting policies and defending against sexual harassment cases.