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Employers: Do You Have Your Sexual Harassment Training in Place?

What Does the New Sexual Harassment Training Require?

By now, hopefully many employers in New York have become aware of the new sexual harassment training laws that went into effect on October 9, 2018.  Under the new law, all New York employers, no matter how many employees you have, are required under State law to establish a sexual harassment training policy.

New York State has published a tool kit that explains the guidelines employers must follow. Some employers already had established sexual harassment policies prior to the new law. Others may not have any sexual harassment policy in place. In either case, you must comply with the government’s new requirements.

If you’re uncertain about whether your policy is compliant or not, it is wise to consult with an experienced employment defense attorney. The probability is high that most employers are missing parts of the new law in their policies.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual Harassment Training Tool Kit Guidelines

A checklist for sexual harassment training must meet (or it can exceed) the following minimum training standards. Training must:

  • “Be Interactive (see the model training guidance document for specific recommendations);
  • Include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  • Include examples of unlawful sexual harassment;
  • Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual
  • harassment and remedies available to targets of sexual harassment;
  • Include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints; and
  • Include information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisors.”

It is common have questions about the new guidelines and how to apply them. The specific details of what some of the minimum training standards require are not clear to many employers.

Stephen Hans & Associates can answer your questions and help you understand exactly what is required and how to even exceed the minimum standards. We offer seasoned legal guidance based on decades of employment law defense experience.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Investigation

 

 

How Should You Conduct Sexual Harassment Investigations?

It is vital to conduct an investigation as soon as possible when an employer receives a complaint of sexual harassment (or any other type of discrimination harassment). Delays in investigating can be viewed as neglect and as a failure to take effective measures to prevent harassment in the workplace, which makes employers vulnerable to sexual harassment claims.

harassment Q & A

What Comprises an Effective Investigation?

The EEOC  recommends that employers incorporate the following into their investigations to ensure prompt and effective investigations:

Ensure the investigation is conducted immediately, thoroughly and with impartiality. Individuals who are alleged harassers should have no control, whether direct or indirect, over the investigation.

  • Those who should be interviewed during the investigation include:
  • The employee complaining about harassment
  • The alleged harasser(s)

Anyone with relevant information or who would be expected to have reasonable information about the harassment.

sexual harassment in the workplace, is the employer responsible

Ask the Complainant, Alleged Harassers and Witnesses Specific Questions

The following are some examples of specific questions that the EEOC suggests employers ask during a harassment investigation:

Questions for Complainant

  • Who, what, when, where, and how: Who committed the alleged harassment? What exactly occurred or was said? When did it occur and is it still ongoing? Where did it occur? How often did it occur? How did it affect you?
  • How did you react? What response did you make when the incident(s) occurred or afterwards?
  • How did the harassment affect you? Has your job been affected in any way?
  • Are there any persons who have relevant information? Was anyone present when the alleged harassment occurred? Did you tell anyone about it? Did anyone see you immediately after episodes of alleged harassment?
  • Did the person who harassed you harass anyone else? Do you know whether anyone complained about harassment by that person?
  • Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • How would you like to see the situation resolved?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?

was there harassment

Questions for the Alleged Harasser

  • What is your response to the allegations?
  • If the harasser claims that the allegations are false, ask why the complainant might lie.
  • Are there any persons who have relevant information?
  • Are there any notes, physical evidence, or other documentation regarding the incident(s)?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?

Questions for Witnesses

  • What did you see or hear? When did this occur? Describe the alleged harasser’s behavior toward the complainant and toward others in the workplace.
  • What did the complainant tell you? When did s/he tell you this?
  • Do you know of any other relevant information?
  • Are there other persons who have relevant information?

Stephen Hans & Associates has decades of experience assisting business owners with employment related issues.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Q&A that Applies to Sexual Harassment in Small Business Environments

If you are a small business owner, you may wonder how to protect your small business from sexual harassment and resulting claims that put your business at risk.

Here are some questions and answers (Q&A) that are a good place to start when dealing with sexual harassment.

This Q&A relates to harassment by supervisors:

Who is considered a supervisor?

Any individual who has the authority to recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the employee is a supervisor. Tangible employment decisions include significant employment actions that change an employee’s status, such as:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Promotion
  • Demotion
  • Work assignment
  • Undesirable reassignment
  • Significant benefits changes
  • Compensation decisions

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SMALL BUSINESS AGAINST SEXUAL HARASSMENT

When are employers liable for a supervisor’s sexual harassment?

Whenever a supervisor engages in harassment that results in a tangible employment action, the employers are always liable. When no tangible employment action occurs, employers are still liable unless they can show the following:

  • They took reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct sexual harassment.
  • The employee reasonably failed to complain to management or failed to otherwise avoid harm.

What steps should employers take to prevent and correct sexual harassment?

Employers need to establish policy that prohibits harassment, put it in writing and pass it out to all employers.

Employers should create procedures for making complaints and notify employees.

When a business is sufficiently small that the owner is regularly in contact with all employees, the employer does not have to put policies in writing. Employers can tell employees at staff meetings that harassment is not allowed, that employees should report harassment immediately and they can even report incidents of harassment directly to the owner.

The business should conduct a prompt investigation when harassment is reported.

When sexual harassment is discovered, the discipline for the offending employee should be comparable to the extent and type of harassment.

As much as possible, the employer should keep the harassed employee’s identity confidential. Otherwise, if the offender retaliates against the reporting employee, the company could be held liable for the retaliation.

(This Q&A applies to all types of harassment, not just sexual harassment and more information is available in the EEOC article, Questions and Answers for Small Employers on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors ).

Are You Dealing with Sexual Harassment Issues in Your Business?

Stephen Hans & Associates can offer valuable legal assistance to help you protect your business. Our attorneys have more than 20 years of experience defending employers.

Stopping Sexual Harassment in Your Company is More Important than Ever

 

Author: Stephen D. Hans & Associates

Recent high-profile sexual harassment stories  have been dominating the headlines in the last few weeks. The likelihood is that such exposés will continue as more victims come forward to tell their stories. And while stories that include famous celebrities and high profile politicians will be more desirable fodder for major news outlets, it’s easy to believe that local business scandals may go unnoticed.

Sexual harassment under the law

Rather than just considering how your company should respond to a sexual harassment claim, you should also consider how such incidences in your company can be decreased. Limiting your company’s liability is a valid concern but focusing on creating a non-threatening work environment for your employees may help you to create a sexual harassment policy that will be successful.

Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that falls under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Such discrimination can manifest as:

  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Unwelcome sexual advances (both physical and verbal)
  • Offensive jokes
  • Slurs
  • Name calling
  • Physical assaults / threats
  • Intimidation
  • Ridicule
  • Offensive objects or pictures
  • Interference with work performance

The EEOC investigates thousands of sexual harassment claims per year—and given the current climate, those claims are likely to increase.

What you can do

Small to medium business need to understand that it is not just large corporations and famous celebrities that get hit with sexual harassment claims. If you have as few as 15 employees you could find yourself facing such a suit, so taking an active role in preventing workplace sexual harassment and correcting any incidents should be a priority for you.

Written Policies and Procedures. Having written policies and procedures against sexual discrimination provides a major legal defense against liability. By having policy and procedures in place, it shows that you’ve made a good faith effort to prevent and correct harassment. Such policies and procedures should include:

  • Definition of sexual harassment
  • A procedure for filing complaints
  • Designated employees trained on receiving and documenting complaints
  • Encouragement in filing complaints
  • Assurances of confidentiality and non-retaliation for reporting

Providing training on sexual harassment to employees

Providing comprehensive training on what sexual harassment is, how to recognize it, how to report it, and the responsibilities for both workers and employers can save your company a lot of future headaches. Your training course should contain both theoretical and practical content—using drills, hypothetical situations, and other means to provide a personal understanding of sexual harassment. It is also wise to train managerial and supervisory staff separately from employees.

Prevent sexual harassment before it occurs—talk to an employment law attorney

Ultimately your best approach to harassment in your company is to create and adhere to a zero tolerance policy. By refusing to tolerate such behavior and protecting any employee subjected to it, you not only protect your company but also invest in your greatest resource – your employees. An experienced NY employment law attorney can work with you to develop the appropriate policies and steps to take to prevent and correct sexual harassment within your company.  If you have questions about your company’s sexual harassment policies contact us online or call 718-275-6700 today to schedule a consultation.