Avoiding Harassment Claims
probably impossible for your company to eliminate any
chance of harassment, but there are precautions you can take
to help win a lawsuit filed by an employee.
Above all, you must have a sound company
policy against harassment, which includes discrimination based
on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age or
disability. Some important steps:
Make sure your employees are aware of
the policy. Spread the word through orientation sessions and
your employee handbook.
Require staff members to sign an
agreement indicating that they understand the policy.
At least once a year, train your
employees and managers on the subject of harassment and its
consequences. Employees must be told how to report incidents
and feel they can without retaliation.
In some cases, you must be proactive. In one case, the EEOC
said if there is sexually or racially offensive graffiti in
the workplace, a company shouldn't wait for a complaint before
To protect your
company after a harassment complaint, here's a checklist to
help conduct a thorough
||Listen to the complaint but stay
neutral and donít validate the accusation.|
||Take down a statement in writing and
ask the employee to initial it for
||Assure the employee that you will take
||Discuss the problem with legal
||Meet with key individuals and
investigate the complaint (or hand the inquiry over to a
neutral third party).|
||Donít confine the investigation to the
single incident. For example, does the alleged harasser
have a history of similar behavior in the
||Take appropriate action if you
determine harassment did take place, including a
warning, disciplinary action, demotion, transfer or
dismissal. Carefully document your
||Institute additional training if your
investigation uncovers a pattern of harassment or
ignorance about the subject.
Even after conducting a
thorough investigation and taking appropriate action, an
employee may still sue the company. But the seriousness of
your inquiry, along with a comprehensive policy and adequate
training, can help convince the court that you did everything
possible to provide a harassment-free workplace.