Seven Steps to Avoid Sexual Harassment Liability

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Expert suggests prevention and remedy are keys. Taking just seven simple actions to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace can help businesses reduce their risk and avoid liability.

Many business owners fear the consequences of a sexual harassment claim against their company. But taking just seven simple actions can help them greatly limit, if not avoid entirely, any liability in such a case.

“The United States Supreme Court’s landmark 1998 decision makes clear that employers’ preventive and remedial actions are crucial to the question of liability,” says business-training expert Myron Curry, president of BusinessTrainingMedia.com. “The decision says the purpose of sexual harassment laws is not for courts to intervene between employers and employees, but rather to encourage employers to themselves take steps to prevent sexual harassment and remedy it if it occurs.” Curry suggests that if employers take these seven simple actions, they can greatly reduce their organizations’ sexual harassment liability exposure.

1. Develop a good written policy. Use plain English, not "legalese," to explain what sexual harassment is and what your policy is on improper behavior in your workplace. Give concrete examples and translate the policy into different languages if needed.

2. Have a user-friendly complaint procedure. Your policy should tell workers how to file a complaint and identify more than one person who can receive complaints. Explain fully how you will investigate complaints and make decisions.

3. Explain the penalties for sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior and the appeal procedure.

4. Explain what constitutes retaliation and prohibit such actions.

5. Follow the policy. In the event of sexual harassment complaint, follow your policy to the letter.

6. Publicize the policy. Having a policy does no good if employees can later claim they never saw it. Each new hire should sign a receipt stating he or she has read and understands the policy. If you want employees to remember your policy and realize you take it seriously, you must publicize it constantly. Make available a brochure or pamphlet that summarizes the policy. Periodically remind employees through a regular communication channel, memos or employee meetings, for instance, or hang posters on company bulletin boards.

7. Train. In our society, behavior that in many settings seems normal, such as enjoying some music and entertainment and casual social interactions, is inappropriate in the workplace and may even be sexual harassment. Training and retraining that explains sexual harassment and expectations for employees’ behavior in the workplace are essential to inform and remind employees of workplace behavior standards. "Employees are much more likely to absorb and remember your sexual harassment training messages when they are reinforced with effective training media," says Curry.

BusinessTrainingMedia.com offers a range of sexual harassment programs designed to educate both employers and employees about this growing workplace issue. Its four most popular programs, "Patterns," "It's Not Just About Sex Anymore," "Sexual Harassment: Is It or Isn't It?" and "Sexual Harassment? You Decide" are available in a free preview package at http://www.business-marketing.com/store/sexualharassment.html#307

To find out more, visit http://www.businesstrainingmedia.com or call 1-888-337-2121.

About BusinessTrainingMedia.com

Formed in 1998, BusinessTrainingMedia.com provides workforce and business-development training programs designed exclusively for corporate trainers, managers, executives, educators, entrepreneurs, law enforcement and human resource professionals. The company’s corporate training Website features more than 5,000 workforce-training videos, DVDs, instructor-led workshops, live seminars, books and interactive computer-based learning programs. BusinessTrainingMedia.com has more than 4,000 customers worldwide, including AT&T, Amazon.com, 3M, IBM, Bank of America, Disney Worldwide, FedEx, United States Postal Service, Yahoo!, Sprint, University of Arizona, Penn State University and others.

Through a partnership with Seminar Information Services, BTM provides access to over 360,000 live seminars and workshops listed annually. Subscribers can enroll online. Among the more than 500 seminar providers in the BTM database are the American Management Association, Karrass Seminars, Skillpath Seminars, Padgett-Thompson, UCLA, University of Michigan, and the Wharton School, to name a few. In addition, BTM offers a growing online library of free business management, training, and compliance articles.

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Myron Curry