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November 8th, 2011
How to Reduce the Risk of Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace
News that the Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain once settled charges of sexual harassment has once again placed this complicated issue in the public eye.
The allegations against Cain appear to have followed a pattern we see frequently in our practice: the accused dismisses his behavior as misinterpreted joking; the victim is placed in an awkward position with few good options.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex, which includes sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances including not only unwelcome sexual advances but also offensive jokes or remarks that rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment.
Despite nearly 50 years of Title VII enforcement and employer-sponsored training, workplace sexual harassment remains pervasive. Indeed, a recent AOL Jobs study found that one in six people have been sexually harassed in the workplace, with only 35 percent reporting the issue. Clearly many victims stay silent for fear of retaliation. In addition to the “human” costs, workplace harassment causes significant economic cost as well in the form of absenteeism, employee turnover, and diminished productivity.
So what is a company to do?
We continue to advise our clients to have a clear policy that defines what harassment is, and that establishes procedures for employees to report problems.
In addition, we recommend companies conduct annual trainings for all employees. These trainings need to clearly explain what behaviors are not acceptable and give employees guidelines for reporting when they suspect harassment or if they feel victimized. We suggest employees sign an acknowledgement that they have received training and that they agree to abide by the policy.
These two steps not only help create a more productive workplace, they also help reduce an employer’s legal exposure in cases where employees bring accusations.
If you have any questions about this legal alert, or other employment law issues, contact Wendy Stryker at (212) 705 4838 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Brian Maas at (212) 705 4836 or email@example.com, or any other member of the Frankfurt Kurnit Litigation Group.
Other Commercial Litigation Alerts
ADA Website Accessibility Lawsuits: What Companies Need to Know
Plaintiffs have filed thousands of lawsuits (including class actions) alleging that commercial websites are not accessible to the blind or visually impaired in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”) and corresponding state laws. Read more.
December 6 2018
NY Court Expands Protections for Employers to Safeguard Proprietary Information
Yesterday a New York State appeals court reinstated the conviction of a former Goldman Sachs computer programmer under New York's unlawful use of secret scientific material statute. In doing so, the court gave a twenty-first century voice to a statute that was written in the age of blueprints and photocopiers. Read more.
January 27 2017
New Trade Secrets Law Calls for Changes to Handbooks and Certain Employment Agreements
As we noted in an alert last week, the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 ("DTSA") creates a private right of action to sue in federal court for trade secret misappropriation, and provides for remedies including actual damages and attorneys' fees. Read more.
May 25 2016