Workplace sexual harassment has been making headlines nationwide, with high-profile individuals in entertainment, media and other industries losing their jobs over accusations of misconduct. In recent months, companies have been taking a closer look at their harassment policies and updating them where necessary.
“The most obvious way to prevent sexual harassment is to have a well-crafted policy that doesn’t tolerate harassment or discrimination in any form, and it needs to be communicated to all employees,” said Marty Barton, senior vice president and general counsel with Adams Keegan human resources outsourcing firm.
Proper training for front-line managers or supervisors is important so that they know what to do when they either see sexual harassment taking place or it is reported to them.
“Most of employers’ liability really is caught up in the front-line supervisor or manager being able to know what to do when something occurs,” Barton said.
Legally actionable sexual harassment must be pervasive enough to constitute a hostile work environment.
“A stray comment or an action here or there isn’t going to rise to the level of lawsuit-type of actionable harassment,” Barton said. “That being said, that’s a technicality. Anything that’s said that’s inappropriate needs to be dealt with whether it’s legally actionable or not.”
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