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Court: You must act to prevent harassment

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

If you thought having a sexual harassment policy and a clear process for complaining was enough in New York, think again. The Court of Appeals of New York has ruled employers have to prevent supervisor harassment or face strict liability.

The court rejected the so-called Faragher-Ellerth defense and said employers are strictly liable for supervisor harassment even if that harassment doesn’t result in direct employment-related harm.

Result: It’s no longer enough just to let employees know they can report supervisor harassment. Nor is it a defense that the harassed employee didn’t take advantage of your sexual harassment policy.

Clearly, employers must make sexual harassment prevention a priority. Title VII Sexual Harassment — an exclusive report available only via download from our website — is designed to enable you to learn from other employers’ mistakes. You’ll be able to take immediate and appropriate action when a complaint arises, and prevent harassment from ever happening. Download this important policy report here.

Recent case: Dominika Zakrzweska was a student at The New School and worked there part time. She alleged that her supervisor sent her sexually harassing e-mails.

Zakrzweska didn’t use the school’s sexual harassment policy to report the conduct, but also didn’t suffer any harm from the harassment. That is, her supervisor didn’t demote or fire her, or otherwise interfere with her work.

Under the Faragher-Ellerth defense—created by the U.S. Supreme Court to address Title VII sexual harassment—an employer wouldn’t be liable for supervisor harassment if:

  • The employee didn’t suffer tangible employment harm.
  • The employer had a sexual harassment policy designed to prevent and correct sexually harassing behavior.
  • The employee didn’t take advantage of that policy.

But the Court of Appeals of New York ruled that’s not good enough for sexual harassment cases brought under the New York State Human Rights Law. (Zakrzweska v. The New School, No. 62, Court of Appeals of New York, 2010)

Final note: This is a good time to review all your sexual harassment policies and develop a prevention plan.

Are you doing all you can to prevent sexual harassment at work?

Preventing sexual harassment starts with a sound policy. When you have regulations in place to prevent and respond to harassment complaints, you’ll save everyone time, money and heartache.

You must clearly communicate to your employees that harassment won’t be tolerated. Provide training and establish an effective complaint process so action can be taken immediately if a complaint arises. You’ll not only protect your employees, you’ll protect your company: Courts are beginning to show leniency toward employers who show a clear commitment to eliminating harassment.

You may think sexual harassment will never be an issue you’ll have to face. But even the mere hint of harassment can spell trouble. Protect your company before it’s too late. Get your copy of Title VII Sexual Harassment today!book cover

If you don't see how you can keep the threat of sexual harassment claims from destroying your team, your efficiency and your company's bank account, we'll refund your entire purchase price – no questions asked – and you'll have no further obligation.

Get your copy here.

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