By Bobbie Fox
Associate General Counsel
CopperPoint Insurance Companies
A new poll issued by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) echoed a story that has permeated news headlines and Hollywood for the past few weeks. It indicates that approximately 33 million U.S. women have been sexually harassed, and 14 million sexually abused, in work-related incidents. And nearly all of them report that their male harassers were never punished.
Unfortunately, this epidemic is still alive and well in the workplace.
Harassment is a type of discrimination also called “hostile work environment.” It is a workplace permeated with hostility based on a person’s race, color, national origin,
religion, age, sex, or disability that is severe enough or pervasive enough to affect the terms, conditions and privileges of employment and a reasonable person would find it hostile or abusive.
Workplace harassment can be created by a vendor, customer, co-worker or supervisor.
With such widespread abuse, how can employers protect themselves and their employees from this harmful behavior and make sure to avoid these types of headlines?
1. Above all, have an anti-harassment and discrimination policy in place that is disseminated to all employees and enforced.
2. Train employees on the law and policy.
3. Train managers to recognize harassment and discrimination and to respond promptly to prevent liability.
4. Provide several ways for a victim to complain about the harassment (for example, to HR, to the company vice president or to the general counsel).
5. Promptly and thoroughly investigate all complaints and take appropriate corrective action.
6. Be fair and avoid action that could lead to a retaliation claim against the person complaining or supporting the allegation. Managers should be trained on avoiding retaliation claims as well.
It’s imperative that companies do all they can to create a culture of civility and respect in the workplace. Visit on line resources such as SHRM for more information and tips on creating safe work environments.
Bobbie Fox is associate general counsel for CopperPoint Insurance Companies, a leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance and property and casualty insurance products.