Prompt Response: A Part Of The Formula When Addressing Sexual Harassment Reports

An employer operating multiple senior care facilities in eight states reached a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

 

The EEOC filed the suit on behalf of a female employee who alleged sexual harassment by her female supervisor, including sexually offensive comments, frequent talk about her personal sexual activities, and unwelcome touching. The employee reported the supervisor's behavior to upper management but said management's inadequate response and unquestioning support for the supervisor led to continued harassment.

 

In addition to a monetary payment of $450,000, the settlement includes a three-year consent decree in which the employer must take steps to stop harassment, including modified policies and additional training for all employees. "Olympia Senior Care Providers to Pay $450,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit" www.eeoc.gov (Mar. 12, 2020).

Commentary and Checklist

Every report of sexual harassment, whether between same sex parties or not should be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated. An employer and a supervisor can face liability when a supervisor makes unwanted, repeated sexual overtures to a subordinate and no effective steps are taken to stop the behavior.

 

Here are several suggestions that can help employers create a work environment that is free from harassment and reduce liability risk:

  • Have a clear sexual harassment policy in place that protects both everyone, regardless of sex, gender identity, or gender expression, from harassment. Make sure your policy covers jokes and taunting or other locker room style behavior.
  • Train all staff annually on what constitutes sexual harassment, your harassment policy, and how to report. Be certain employees have a means to ask questions about the policy if they have concerns.
  • Train your other employees and management every year, and again after any sexual harassment report.
  • Enforce your policy consistently and hold all employees to the same rules and standards, regardless of their rank in the organization.
  • Review your organization's reporting avenues. Make sure employees have options for how to report complaints.
  • Respond to every complaint of sexual misconduct with a prompt and professional investigation. Consistently follow investigation procedures for every report of harassment.
  • Periodically review how sexual misconduct complaints are managed to be certain that all procedures are followed correctly and in a timely manner.
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