Employers often focus on the legal costs when weighing the risk of a harassment claim in their workplace, and with good reason. Last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recovered $134 million in monetary settlements for workers who claimed harassment, of that amount, $56.6 million was recovered for individuals alleging they were sexually harassed.
The second economic cost of harassment is the cost to those who have suffered from the experience. Victims of sexual harassment experience mental, physical, and financial harm. Harassment in the workplace further impacts an employer’s bottom line due to increased turnover, decreased productivity, and damage to corporate goodwill or reputation.
Sexual harassment cases have increased drastically over the past year due to the #Metoo movement. This has created corporate awareness about the overall impact of sexual harassment and how the actions of their employees and others can increase corporate liability.
Many important Supreme Court decisions distinguish between sexual harassment committed by employees, who are generally authorized to act on behalf of the employer, such as managers and supervisors, and sexual harassment committed by co-workers, contractors or vendors. When co-workers, contractors or vendors sexually harass employees, the employer is usually liable if the harassment occurred or continued because the employer was negligent.
Sexual harassment is defined as an unwelcome sexual advance or conduct in the workplace that creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment.
Sexual harassment can take many forms; a few examples are listed below:
- A male employee making derogatory comments about female employees low cut top.
- Employees telling sexually explicit jokes, or sharing online videos or images that are sexual in nature.
- A supervisor offering a promotion to an employee in return for sexual favors.
- Historically, businesses are negligent when they fail to take steps to investigate and protect an employee that has reported being sexually harassed.
Employers can mitigate the effects of sexual harassment by putting in place a sexual harassment policy and annually training supervisors and employees on how there could be considered sexual harassment. Online Sexual harassment training can be accomplished by using educational tools such as Career Resources sexual harassment prevention training. Career Resources California provides online sexual harassment prevention courses that are designed for both supervisory and non-supervisory employees.