An assurance that complaints will be investigated
In many states, employers are required to promptly investigate complaints of sexual harassment and to take appropriate corrective action.
The company's policy, therefore, should assure that all complaints of sexual harassment will be investigated immediately, that the investigation will be conducted in such a way as to maintain confidentiality to the extent possible under the circumstances.
Any violation of the harassment policy will lead to disciplinary action, ranging from counseling to termination. Some states, such as California, require that the policy also include the complaint procedure of the state agency responsible for investigating harassment issues, as well as the damages that may be recovered by the employee in the event he or she is successful in a harassment action against the company.
Prohibition on retaliation
Because it is common for employees to fear that they will suffer retaliation if they complain of harassment, the company's policy should ensure that any and all forms of retaliation against employees who complain of sexual harassment or who cooperate in an investigation of a complaint will not be tolerated.
In addition to preparing an effective sexual-harassment policy, the employer must distribute the policy and obtain an acknowledgement from every employee that he or she has read and understands it.
The company also should ensure that supervisors are trained on sexual harassment laws and understand that all complaints of sexual harassment must be reported immediately to the appropriate individuals (such as the human resources director) and will be investigated and addressed.
Taking all of these steps will go a long way in protecting the company from sexual harassment litigation.
About the author
Emma Luevano is a regular contributor to LatinBusinessToday.com on legal issues relevant to small and medium business. She is a partner at the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP (www.msk.com) who advises and represents management on labor and employment matters, including sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination, public policy violations, wrongful termination, class action wage and hour issues,and retaliation.