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Tell employees they must report sexual harassment up chain of command

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Looking for a way to eliminate unfounded sexual harassment claims from former employees? You know, the ones where someone suddenly remembers being sexually harassed, telling her supervisor and then having nothing done to stop it.

One way is to make sure your sexual harassment policy tells employees to keep taking their harassment claims up the chain of command if they aren’t satisfied with the first response.

Here’s why: If employees are required to take only the first step and complain to an immediate supervisor, it often becomes the supervisor’s word against the employee’s. But if your policy tells employees to go further, and you can show they didn’t, you can argue in court that the employee never complained in the first place.

Recent case: Cathy Valles worked for Allstar Erosion Control and gave notice and left abruptly after her husband exchanged angry words with the company president.

Valles then sued, alleging the president had sexually harassed her. She said she had complained to her immediate supervisor.

Allstar’s sexual harassment policy required an employee to complain to successive levels of management until his or her problem was rectified. Valles’ immediate supervisor said she knew nothing about the harassment allegations. The company pointed out that Valles didn’t claim she had gone higher after she allegedly got no response from her immediate supervisor.

The court dismissed Valles’ case. (Valles v. Frazier, et al., No. SA-08-CA-501, WD TX, 2009)

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