Employers throughout New York City work hard to foster productive and respectful work environments where their employees can contribute and thrive in their jobs. When lines of communication are open between workers, supervisors, and management, small disagreements or problems can often be settled before they become big challenges for employers. However, some employee issues can escalate quickly and require the time and attention of human resources and managing leaders.
Sexual harassment is a legal matter that can infiltrate workplaces and create damaging issues throughout worker teams. This post will talk about sexual harassment and the steps employers can take to deal with claims of sexual harassment before they escalate into serious legal complaints. No part of this post is provided as legal advice and all questions about sexual harassment should be directed to knowledgeable New York-based employment law attorneys.
Sexual harassment: Know the types
There are two main forms of sexual harassment recognized under the laws of the state and the federal government: hostile work environment and quid pro quo harassment. Hostile work environments are created when workers are subjected to images, words, jokes, or other forms of communication that are demeaning and of a sexual nature. Quid pro quo harassment happens when a work benefit is attached to an employee’s acquiescence to a supervisor’s sexual request.
Both types of sexual harassment are damaging to workplaces and can cause employers to incur liability if they do not respond to claims from employees. How an employer responds can dictate how quickly a claim is resolved.
Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace
One of the most critical components of employer liability in sexual harassment cases is whether the employer knew or should have known that the employee was subjected to sexual harassment at work. If an employee speaks up about alleged harassment and their employer does nothing to pursue the veracity of the claim, that employer may later be found liable for allowing the harassment to occur.
Claims of sexual harassment should be recorded and investigated by employers when they are lodged by employees. Employers can communicate with alleged victims and alleged harassers about their actions or inactions with regard to the alleged harassment and can involve different departments, such as human resources, in the inquiry process of understanding the bases of the claims.
Employers should remember that retaliating against allegedly harassed workers is illegal and can cause them to incur additional legal punishments. Sexual harassment can be a damaging event at work, but with legal help many employers can successfully address it in-house and keep their workplaces safe.