Media Center

Sexual Harassment: Don’t Be the Next Headline

November 1, 2017
Press Release

by Kelley Kaufman and Mark Hipple

A simple Google search of “sexual harassment in the news” reveals multiple headlines such as “New York opens sexual harassment probe of Weinstein Co.: source,” “Chef John Besh Steps Down Amid Sexual Harassment Scandal,” and “38 women come forward to accuse director James Toback of sexual harassment.”  These are just a few of the most recent headlines that highlight the significant impact sexual harassment has on an organization’s reputation, image and business relationships.  If it wasn’t already, harassment prevention and training should be a priority for your organization.

These headlines are not isolated events that temporarily capture media attention.  Last year, there were 12,860 sex-based harassment charges, which include charges alleging sexual harassment, filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  This number represents the largest amount of sex-based harassment claims filed with the EEOC over the past six years, and it does not take into account the thousands of sex-based charges that were filed with the various state agencies.  The recent headlines and the increasing number of sex-based harassment claims spotlight employers’ ongoing need to address – and consistently readdress – harassment prevention in the workplace.

What can your organization do to avoid the detrimental impact of harassment in the workplace?  While there is no quick fix or magic formula, here are two suggestions on where to start:

  • First, review and update your harassment policy.  As the workplace evolves, an organization must consider the impact such changes have on its harassment policy.  For example, harassment can now take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through employees’ use of social media.  While each organization must adopt its own policy, there are essential components that should be included in every harassment policy.  These include a specific definition of harassment and descriptions of what it can look like in the workplace; a reporting procedure that provides employees with multiple reporting channels; and a clear prohibition of retaliation against any individual that reports harassment or participates in an investigation of reported harassment.
  • A second preventative measure:  harassment training.  When was the last time your organization conducted discriminatory harassment training for rank and file employees?  Does your organization regularly train supervisors and managers on how to recognize important harassment issues and to promptly (and effectively) address them?  Do those supervisors and managers know when and how to get Human Resources involved?  If not, they should.  Our podcast, available here, explains the importance of manager and supervisor training on these issues.  Another of our podcasts, available here, covers key components of conducting a quality investigation when complaints of harassment arise in your workplace.  Remember:  a little bit of training and education now can go a long way towards preventing harassment claims in the future!

How can you help your organization avoid being the next headline?  Contact any member of the McNees Labor & Employment Group for help with policy review and a training plan.  We customize harassment policies and offer training on fixed fees.  We can help you build an efficient, effective training curriculum that is tailored to suit the specific needs of your workforce. We also can design your training program to help you “train the trainer,” coaching your Human Resources and management teams on how to effectively train other employees on selected legal issues, such as harassment.

If you have any questions about your harassment policy or developing an effective employee training program, contact any member of our Labor & Employment Practice Group in Harrisburg (717-232-8000), Lancaster (717-291-1177), State College (814-867-8500), Scranton (570-209-7220), or Columbus, Ohio (614-469-8000).

© 2017 McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC
McNees Employment Law Client Alert is presented with the understanding that the publisher does not render specific legal, accounting or other professional service to the reader. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the law, information contained in this publication may become outdated. Anyone using this material must always research original sources of authority and update this information to ensure accuracy and applicability to specific legal matters. In no event will the authors, the reviewers or the publisher be liable for any damage, whether direct, indirect or consequential, claimed to result from the use of this material.