SMM Law has considerable experience providing legal advice on sexual harassment issues, conducting workplace investigations on behalf of employers, and handling these cases at trial.
In 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court first held that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination included sexual harassment and it identified two types: quid pro quo (“this for that”) and hostile working environment. In 2017, the “#MeToo” movement and other social movements encouraged people to speak out against sexual harassment, including in the workplace.
Since these movements, sexual harassment lawsuits have spiked and continue to garner media attention like never before. If you scroll through these headlines, you’ll notice that no company is safe from this type of exposure. Even the most careful business can find itself as the target of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation or a sexual harassment lawsuit. Furthermore, these suits are costly to defend and juries have awarded large judgments against employers.
Given today’s climate and the focus on workplace harassment, prevention is the best tool for employers. Regardless of industry or size, employers need to be prepared to receive and investigate claims of harassment in an effective way. In this regard, employers first need to ensure that their policies include strong anti-harassment language. The policy should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Once a policy is in place, employers should hold anti-harassment training that covers the legal requirements and an explanation of the employer’s policy.
Moreover, employers should review their internal investigation process to ensure that both employees and the company are protected. An effective process allows employees to complain about the workplace. While it may be unpleasant for employers to hear these types of complaints (especially about sexual harassment), these complaints offer valuable insight into the workplace and a chance to fix issues before they worsen. If the employer receives a complaint through the mechanism it has implemented, it should promptly investigate and take corrective action, which may include terminating the employee who is found to be harassing others.
With regard to sexual harassment, SMM Law offers the following services:
- Providing legal advice and counseling on harassment issues;
- Drafting thorough anti-harassment policies;
- Developing and implementing effective procedures for receiving, handling, and investigating complaints of sexual harassment;
- Training employees on the law, anti-harassment principles, and the employer’s policy;
- Training HR professionals and managers/supervisors on how to effectively investigate allegations of harassment in the workplace;
- Conducting swift, neutral, and confidential workplace investigations on an employer’s behalf; and
- Meeting with employees and conducting terminations.