Keys to Preventing Workplace Sexual Harassment

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment complaints made up about 35% of all complaints received by the agency between 2018 and 2021. In addition, almost 80% of the complaints came from women.

Sexual harassment may include unwanted sexual advances and unwelcome sexual commentary. It also may include conduct that denigrates or shows hostility to individuals or groups of people based on sex, gender, or other gender-related characteristics. Harassers can be supervisors, managers, coworkers, or non-employees. Harassment can affect not only the person who is the target of the harassment but also anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

Employers must take proactive measures to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Otherwise, they can face liability through costly litigation. For instance, the EEOC recently settled a lawsuit that it filed against Lone Star Ambulance for sexual harassment and retaliation. Lone Star will pay $90,000 in damages as part of the settlement. The company also must adopt a written employment discrimination policy, hire an independent monitor to investigate sexual harassment complaints, and conduct annual civil rights training. The claim arose after two female employees experienced verbal sexual harassment, unwanted sexual touching, and forced sexual encounters as a condition of employment by executive managers and supervisors.

Avoidance of the type of liability that Lone Star faced in the EEOC suit is more likely achieved by taking preventative steps to combat potential sexual harassment. Federal law provides a defense to liability for proactive employers in identifying, correcting, and taking measures to reduce the risk of future sexual harassment. Training managers and supervisors is crucial to operate a sexual harassment-free workplace, but conducting live, in-person training for new employees and all employees at least once per year is also essential.

Employers should reinforce their anti-harassment policy and procedures for reporting harassment to all employees. They also should offer additional resources as needed. The training and resources that employers make available should include the following:

  • Clearly defining and giving examples of harassment and discrimination;
  • Developing strategies to combat harassment and other forms of misconduct;
  • Emphasizing the impact of harassment on individuals;
  • Giving specific examples from cases, media, and other accounts of impermissible sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination; and
  • Providing different confidential avenues for employees to report harassment, discrimination, or other appropriate behavior.

HBL has experience in all areas of benefits and employment law, offering a comprehensive solution to all your business benefits and HR/employment needs. We help ensure you are in compliance with the complex requirements of ERISA and the IRS code, as well as those laws that impact you and your employees. Together, we reduce your exposure to potential legal or financial penalties. Learn more by calling 470-571-1007.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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