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The Higher Up The Ladder Of The Accused, The More Damaging The Allegations Of Sexual Harassment

Written exclusively for ChubbWorks

The former COO of a real estate investment trust is alleging sexual harassment, wage discrimination, and retaliation in a lawsuit she filed against her former employer's CEO.

The plaintiff accuses the CEO of repeated sexual harassment over several years, including suggestive looks, offensive comments, and one incident in which the CEO "attempted to kiss" her. The lawsuit alleges the CEO terminated her because she complained about the harassment and about "disparate treatment based on her sex in terms of salary and bonus."

Court documents also refer to past reports of sexual harassment by the CEO, which were quietly settled with payments to the accusing women, utilizing the organization's payroll system.

The employer released a statement denying the charges and confirming its commitment to promoting an equitable and diverse workplace where discrimination and harassment are not tolerated. The plaintiff seeks lost wages and compensatory damages. Victor Ocasio "Former COO at Cedar Realty Trust sues CEO," (Nov. 7, 2017).

Commentary and Checklist

The cost of sexual harassment and retaliation should never be measured by just dollar and cents. Sexual harassment increases turnover, lowers productivity, and hurts retention of your best employees as well as harming the victims.

However, from a dollars and cents standpoint, sexual harassment by senior executives can be devastating, not as to the amounts paid out in settlements or verdicts, but also because of the losses to an organization’s reputation and even value, if it is a public company.

For these reasons, it is extremely important for organizations to investigate charges of sexual harassment, no matter the accused. Failing to investigate claims of harassment is implicitly condoning and allowing the harassing behavior to continue.

Proactive employers must also take steps to prevent sexual harassment. It starts with well-written and consistently applied policies and procedures that forbid harassment and discrimination. Such policies should make clear that all employees will be held to the same rules and standards, regardless of their rank in the organization.

The following tips can help employers support their anti-harassment policies and avoid sexual harassment risk:

  • Provide effective and repeated training of everyone in the workplace on discrimination prevention including sexual harassment.
  • Train all employees in the organization on anti-harassment policies and procedures for all employees in the organization, including executives.
  • Conduct timely and professional investigations of all claims of wrongdoing.
  • Protect all victims and those who provide information or testimony concerning wrongdoing from retaliation.
  • Provide several avenues that are safe and effective for employees to use to report harassment and discrimination whenever it is experienced or witnessed.
  • Regularly monitor how harassment complaints are managed to be certain that all procedures are followed correctly and in a timely manner.
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