How Employers Can Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Under the federal law known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), employers have the responsibility of ensuring the workplace is free of sexual harassment. While this is a legal obligation, maintaining a harassment-free workplace just makes good business sense. An environment that is uncomfortable for employees will result in low worker morale and decreased productivity, and also likely result in large legal fees.
Sexual Harassment Explained
Sexual harassment commonly is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, or requests for sexual favors. Under Title VII,, discrimination on the basis of sex (among other factors) is illegal. This federal law applies to employers with more than 15 employees. Federal, state, and local governments also fall under this law.
Sexual harassment is not limited by gender. Accordingly, Title VII governs both opposite sex and same sex harassment. It is important to understand that harassers aren’t always direct supervisors. In fact, a harasser may be a coworker, a supervisor in another department, or someone employed at another workplace. Moreover, a victim of sexual harassment can be an employee who is indirectly – but negatively – affected by the offensive conduct.
In addition to Title VII, almost every state in the nation has enacted its own anti-discrimination laws. In New York, the NYC Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR) protects individuals from workplace discrimination, including sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment Guide
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the NYCCHR have sexual harassment resources for employers seeking to prevent this prohibited behavior. Below are several tips for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
- Adopt a clear policy – in the company’s employee handbook, sexual harassment should be addressed unequivocally by way of a policy. This policy should define sexual harassment, express a zero tolerance of this behavior, describe a specific procedure for filing a complaint, detail disciplinary action for those found of wrongdoing, express that full investigations will be pursued, and express that no one shall be retaliated against for filing a complaint;
- Train all employees – sexual harassment awareness training should be conducted at least once a year. These sessions should include the definition of sexual harassment, explain the rights of employees to work in an environment free of harassment, and go over the company’s policy and encourage all to use it;
- Train all supervisors and managers – at least once a year, a separate sexual harassment training for management, apart from that for employees should be conducted. This training should educate management on properly how to spot and handle sexual harassment, including the procedures outlined by the company policy;
- Regularly monitor the workplace – it is important for companies to have their management to get out and walk among employees to gauge the work environment; and
- Make sure to take all complaints seriously – when a sexual harassment complaint is received, a company should act upon it immediately. Should the complaint be found to be valid after a thorough investigation, the action taken should be swift and comply with the company’s policy.
Sexual Harassment Lawyer NYC
If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace – whether from colleagues or a supervisor – contact Ricotta & Marks, P.C. right away to tell your story. Our legal professionals are well-versed in federal, state and local laws that govern these cases. These sexual harassment attorneys can provide the guidance and resources needed to preserve your rights under state and federal law. Contact the NYC office at (347) 464-8694 today for a free case evaluation.