You probably make sure all your employees have read your sexual harassment policy. That doesn’t mean they always follow it.
If an employee is hinting that she’s being harassed, your best approach may be to hand her another copy and urge her to report any problems right away.
This approach shows you are serious about preventing and stopping harassment. It may save you from a nasty lawsuit later.
Recent case: Stephanie worked as a radiology technician for a hospital and had a spotty work history that included reprimands for excessive cellphone use at work. She was warned she might be fired if she was caught using her phone again.
Then Stephanie’s supervisor (who didn’t have the power to hire and fire anyone) asked her to meet with him in a private room to discuss her job. She agreed. Stephanie later claimed that he goaded her into lifting her shirt to show she wasn’t wearing a wire to record their conversation—and that after peeking, he also kissed her cheek.
The next day, Stephanie was called into HR and informed that the supervisor was again accusing her of excessive phone use. She got upset and claimed her phone was stashed in her locker.
Then she told the HR reps that the supervisor had done something “horrific” to her. One of the reps gave her a copy of the sexual harassment policy and told her to report any harassment. She refused and said she had to talk to her lawyer.
Shortly after, Stephanie was fired when she recorded several conversations and left the device running during patient visits. She sued, alleging sexual harassment.
Her case was dismissed.
The court said she could have reported the harassment but didn’t, even after receiving a fresh copy of the policy. (Crockett v. Mission Hospital, No. 12-1910, 4th Cir., 2013)