Employers can do plenty to stop sexual harassment, but employees have obligations, too. If the company has a process for reporting co-worker sexual harassment, employees must follow it. Otherwise, they lose the right to complain.
That’s why you need a sexual harassment policy that gives employees the information they need to come forward. Provide a copy at hire—and get employees’ signatures on it, acknowledging they understand the policy and what to do. Regularly remind them of your policy.
Then promptly investigate any complaints and act decisively to end the harassment if the complaint proves valid.
Recent case: Serena Moser claimed that her co-worker and a supervisor sexually harassed her. However, she never said anything to , even after the company came out with a revised sexual harassment policy that provided a toll-free hotline, a promise of no retaliation and specific reporting directions.
The court tossed out her co-worker harassment claim because there was no evidence she had used the established policy. Moser couldn’t prove the company knew about the harassment—and employers aren’t liable for co-worker sexual harassment unless they know or should have known it was happening. (Moser v. MCC Outdoors, No. 1:05-CV-00288, MD NC, 2009)
Final note: Unfortunately for the company, the court said her supervisor harassment claim could go forward. Remember, supervisor harassment is much harder to defend against, especially if the employee is demoted or fired and the supervisor had a hand in the decision.
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