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5 Steps to Prepare Your Company for Workplace Harassment Complaints

December 20, 2017

By Michael J. Wietrzychowski 

The issue of sexual harassment has captured nationwide headlines as women and men have come forward to report sexual harassment by high profile public figures. Media attention to these events may lead to an increase in the number of harassment complaints in many workplaces. This is a serious issue, and not addressing it properly will adversely affect employee retention and recruitment as well as leave companies vulnerable to significant legal expenses and related costs. Business leaders should act now on the following key points to prepare and strengthen their programs addressing workplace harassment complaints:

1. Review and update workplace harassment policies. Official policies are the first place that employees and managers go for guidance. Make sure needed policies are updated, that they clearly define the types of conduct that are inappropriate, and provide employees with guidance on what to do and who to see in the event they believe they either witnessed or were a victim of harassing behavior.

2. Ensure that workplace harassment policies are widely distributed to all employees. Depending on your business, this may include paper distribution, email distribution, or other means that guarantee all employees have received the policies. It is recommended that employees sign off that they have received the policies and understand their contents. It is also a good practice to regularly remind employees of these policies and related human resources matters through HR group meetings.

3. Regularly train supervisors and human resources professionals on handling workplace harassment complaints. All employees responsible for management of the company should be trained on their specific role once they become aware of a workplace harassment complaint.

4. Make workplace harassment complaints a priority. Managers and Human Resources professionals are constantly stretched thin with the many hats that they wear on any given day. At times the consequence is that unanticipated matters, such as workplace harassment complaints, are not prioritized. However, the law requires that employers take “prompt remedial action” to address workplace harassment complaints or else face the legal consequences of not doing enough in a timely fashion. Therefore, businesses must make it a company-wide priority to address complaints as soon as they are reported.

5. Keep your insurance carrier informed. Many employers have Employment Practices Liability Insurance that covers claims of workplace harassment once litigation or administrative action is threatened. These policies generally require that companies notify the insurance carrier of such threats as soon as possible, or risk losing coverage. Businesses should have a process in place to ensure that insurance reporting requirements are met.

Of course there are many additional steps that companies should take to be prepared, given the increased visibility of these issues. By focusing on the priorities identified here, business leaders can begin to proactively plan for and manage these challenging matters. For additional details, see the other articles in this blog series by Schnader.

For more information regarding this or other labor and employment issues, please contact Michael J. Wietrzychowski, co-chair of Schnader’s Labor and Employment Practices Group.   

The materials posted on Schnader.com and SchnaderWorks.com are prepared for informational purposes only and should not be considered as providing legal advice or creating an attorney-client relationship. Please see our disclaimer page for a full explanation.

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