The EEOC handled 6,862 charges of sexual harassment in fiscal year 2014, collecting $35 million on behalf of victims.
Almost all those cases could have been prevented—if employers had avoided these mistakes:
1. Failing to train—repeatedly. A policy isn’t enough. And telling employees once won’t work. Find different ways to get the message across. Then document that training—a plaintiff’s attorney will want proof.
2. Failing to obtain manager support. Managers enforce the policy. If they don’t buy in, the policy is doomed.
3. Tolerating borderline behavior. Clever plaintiffs’ attorneys will paint off-color jokes and risqué photos as a hostile environment.
4. Tolerating ‘non-traditional’ forms of harassment. The law recognizes same-sex harassment. And more than 17% of harassment lawsuits are filed by men. Plus, employees can sue when harassed by customers or other non-employees.
5. Failing to draw clear lines. If employees don’t know the boundaries of bad behavior, they’ll endure it until their attorney defines it for them.
6. Failing to provide more than one way to report harassment. Employees must have someone other than their immediate boss to whom they can complain.
7. Requiring written complaints. That can have a chilling effect, which courts don’t like.
8. Failing to react promptly. Launch a thorough investigation as soon as someone complains about harassment.