Overview: There are a number of issues employers face when confronting sexual harassment in the workplace. All employers should have a policy that defines and prevents harassing behavior. The policy should designate a system for reporting complaints as well as let employees know that the employer will respond to any complaints of sexual harassment with prompt and immediate action. Employee training and development on the policy is critical for all employees and supervisors. It is also important that they understand the employer's zero tolerance policy for harassment. Employers should monitor the workplace and immediately respond to allegations of harassment by undertaking a full and thorough investigation. An employer must show that it is willing to take swift action and corrective measures. In many instances, this can serve as an employer's best defense to a harassment claim.
Trends: Non-traditional sexual harassment lawsuits are on the rise. There have been a significant number of claims brought by men based on harassment by women. Also, same sex harassment claims are increasing as well. Lastly, courts have determined that employees will have a claim for sexual harassment based on sex stereotyping and situations in which an individual is harassed because he or she did not conform to gender norms.
In addition, employers should be aware that in Vance v. Ball State University, the Supreme Court will address the question of how much authority an employee needs to have to be considered a supervisor. This is an important consideration because whether an individual is a supervisor depends on whether an employer will be vicariously liable for harassment.
Author: Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Internal investigations are one of the employer's most effective tools to respond to complaints of discrimination, harassment, waste, theft, fraud or other misconduct. This checklist can assist you in deciding whether to investigate, crafting the investigation to be effective, and producing useful results.
XpertHR has updated the Litigation section of the Investigations and Litigation chapter to reflect two recent federal court rulings pertaining to employer obligations in discrimination cases brought by the EEOC and litigation tactics when employers are accused of fostering hostile work environments.
XpertHR provides up-to-date guidance for California employers regarding the implications of two recent decisions by state courts of appeals. California employers can use the information presented to shore up their termination and internal investigation practices.
Because the trucking industry is a male-dominated industry in which women remain a minority, transportation employers have frequently encountered sex harassment and sex discrimination lawsuits. Although the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC's) class action sexual harassment claim against CRST Van Expedited, one of the largest interstate trucking companies, failed to take flight, the case and ensuing settlement provide employers with valuable insight into what the EEOC may build a case on.
With Valentine's Day around the corner, many employees may have romance on the brain - and a fellow employee or even a supervisor or subordinate may be the target of their affection. An employer has plenty of reasons to discourage dating and romantic relationships in the workplace, including making the mistake of allowing a prior relationship between co-workers to cloud its handling of a sexual harassment complaint. One employer found out the hard way that it should not have discounted an employee's sexual harassment claim due to her prior intimate relationship with the alleged harasser.
When employees resign, employers have a valuable opportunity to both gather candid information regarding their business practices and identify risk. This How To will assist employers with the steps to encourage employees to participate in exit interviews, select the right person to conduct exit interviews and how best to prepare for, conduct and process the information obtained during exit interviews.
An employer may use this policy to convey the purpose for and importance of conducting exit interviews with employees departing the organization. Given that employers may collect valuable, candid information regarding employment practices from outgoing employees and may also identify post-termination risks such as lawsuits, employers are strongly encouraged to conduct exit interviews with all willing, outgoing employees. This policy can be used to put current employees on notice of the employer's intention to conduct such interviews and what the employer intends to do with the information it gathers.
Employers should be aware that Virginia, North Dakota and Nebraska recently introduced legislation that would make sexual orientation a protected class.
A recent settlement against the largest Burger King franchisee may leave employers with a bad taste in their mouths and encourage them to be more proactive when it comes to sexual harassment. Carrols Corporation (Carrols) agreed to pay $2.5 million to a class of 89 women to settle a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the women were subjected to egregious sexual harassment and retaliation by managers when they worked at Burger King restaurants in the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast.
As the EEOC pursues cases of same-sex sexual harassment or discrimination, some victims have been victorious while others could not show that the discrimination or harassment was directly linked to their gender or based on sex stereotypes.
HR guidance on workplace sexual harassment including creating a policy, training employees, immediately responding to harassment complaints and imposing discipline.
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