In the era of the #MeToo movement, many employers have found themselves on the receiving end of sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and wrongful termination litigation. The stakes in these cases can be high, too, especially given that they are sometime high profile. Your company’s reputation can take a hit, and any judgments levied against it can shake its financial stability to its core. It can reduce worker morale, decrease retention, and affect recruitment. Overall, one of these lawsuits can be devastating, which is why you need to know how to protect your interests in the event that your business faces allegations of wrongdoing.
How do I protect my business from these claims?
Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to reduce risk here. Let’s look at ways to protect and defend your business from sexual harassment and the claims that are often associated with them.
- Training: Ongoing, consistent, and thorough training on sexual harassment can be a great preventative measure, but it can also be key to your defense. It can lay a framework for what your employees are supposed to do if they suspect that sexual harassment has occurred, which then gives you something to look back at in the event that legal action is taken. If the employee failed to follow company policy in reporting sexual harassment, then it’s going to be more difficult for him or her to show that you, as the employer, knew or should have known about the harassing behavior. So, make sure that you have clear policies and practices in place.
- Discipline: Your discipline system needs to be swift and clear in these instances. Stalling on taking action on allegations of sexual harassment can look bad in legal proceedings, and it can lead to even more harassing behavior in the workplace. Have policies in place so that your human resources department knows exactly what it needs to do when sexual harassment allegations are levied.
- Build affirmative defenses: While training and discipline can help you build your defense in one of these cases, you’re probably still going to have to prove some other legal elements if you hope to escape liability. The onus likely will fall on you to prove your affirmative defense if the victim can clearly show that sexual harassment by a supervisor or co-worker has occurred. In the event that no adverse employment action was taken against the victim, then you’ll want to gather evidence showing that you acted promptly and reasonably to stop and correct the harassing behavior and that the victim failed to avail himself or herself of corrective or remedial opportunities offered. Keep in mind that in many of these instances you’re better positioned if you can show that you either didn’t know about the harassing behavior and that there’s no way that you should’ve known about it.
Build the compelling defense that you need to protect your business
These are just some of the steps that can be taken to protect your business from sexual harassment allegations. There may be other legal strategies that you can deploy in your case, such as attacking the plaintiff’s credibility based on delayed reporting of the incidents or other factors that attack the plaintiff’s character for truthfulness.
What’s important to remember is that you have options. And with so much on the line in your case, you need to be diligent in assessing those options and acting on those that best position you for success. Attorneys who are experienced in this realm may be able to assist you in developing the legal strategy that is necessary to protect your interests, so don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance if you feel like you could use an aggressive advocate on your side.