Recently it seems that we are constantly learning about another high profile individual who has allegedly engaged in sexual misconduct/harassment in the workplace. These disclosures beg the question of how prevalent is sexual (or other forms of unlawful) harassment in our workplaces. It is easy to believe that for every high profile individual who has misbehaved, there are countless of other employees who have similarly misbehaved. Moreover, many of the recent disclosures suggest that the employer in question knew or had reason to know of the alleged misconduct, which had occurred over an extended period, but failed to take any prior action. So what should organizations do now?
First, organizations should ensure that they have a comprehensive anti-discrimination policy, which includes a procedure for employees to share any concerns about harassment. Second, organizations must educate its employees at all levels of the organization of its policy and procedure so that they become part of the organization’s culture. Third, organizations can conduct training on its policy and the law prohibiting harassment.
Supervisors need to be regularly trained to identify conduct that could be considered harassment and how to address it, not ignore it.
Employees need to know that they are entitled to work in a harassment free environment, that they will be held accountable for their behavior at work and for their behavior out of work that can affect the work environment, and that the organization wants them to report any concerns regarding harassment so that they can be addressed. With these steps, an organization should be able to create a culture that can quickly deal with any concerns of harassment before they present legal liability.
Members of Murtha Cullina’s Labor and Employment Group are available to assist employers in creating policies, providing training, or investigating any reports of harassment.