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Effects of EEOC settlements linger for years

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in Centerpiece,Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

gavel and moneyNeed another reason to prevent discrimination and harassment? You could wind up paying for infractions for years to come.

Virtually every settlement the EEOC signs with employers requires several years’ worth of employee training on how to spot and stop discrimination, harassment or both. Typically, settlements also call for extended EEOC monitoring to ensure that the employer complies with anti-discrimination and anti–harassment laws. That costs money.

So does the bad publicity that results from an EEOC settlement.

Recently, a Savannah, Ga., car dealership settled a sexual harassment complaint that illustrates the long-lasting legacy of harassment. The dealership denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to train its employees about sexual harassment, how to prevent it and how to deal with it if it occurs.

According to the EEOC, the dealership hired a woman as an assistant salesperson and assigned her to work with a male salesman—who promptly started propositioning her. When she refused his advances, she was fired. She filed a complaint with the EEOC, which eventually resulted in the dealership paying $30,000 in damages and agreeing to the settlement.

The dealership will now have to provide sexual harassment training. It must also implement procedures so employees can report harassment to someone other than their direct supervisor.

It must show it can impartially investigate complaints and demonstrate its willingness to act on the findings.

Unlike settlements in civil court, which are typically sealed to remain confidential, every EEOC settlement is public. The EEOC names the employer; quite often, it identifies the specific offender.

In this case the EEOC publicly labeled the salesman a sex harasser. The negative publicity—the case was extensively covered in Savannah—may well cost the dealership future business. The “ick” factor of a sexual harassment complaint may compel some customers to take their business elsewhere.

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