Every employee deserves to work in an environment free from discrimination, hostility, and harassment. From enacting mechanisms for reporting harassment to carrying out swift and thorough investigation procedures, employers play an integral role in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their employees. Poor commitment to providing a harassment free workplace can cost both employers and employees dearly. With sexual harassment claims on the rise, here’s what you need to know to keep your workers and your company free from harm.
What is Harassment?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA). It’s defined as, “Unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” Harassment becomes unlawful when enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Federal Title VII states that the employer is liable for instances of harassment, but generally both the employer and employee (i.e. harasser) share liability. An employer is liable for the unlawful harassment by its supervisors and agents and can be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees if the employer knew or should have known about the harassing behavior and failed to take immediate corrective action. In the case of Chopourian v. Catholic Healthcare West, the defendant was awarded a $168 million verdict after it was discovered she was subjected to a hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and retaliation in the form of defamation and wrongful termination.
The state of California recently expanded upon their anti-harassment laws which directly affects employers and their human resources procedures. Changes include (but aren’t limited to) reducing an employer’s ability to use non-disclosure agreements to prevent employees from releasing details of sexual harassment related cases, expanding harassment definitions, and mandating sexual harassment prevention training for employees and supervisors. Click here for more details on California’s harassment law changes. As legislation continues to evolve, it is important to be aware of your state’s current harassment laws and keep track of any changes.
BASIC Can Help
Here at BASIC, we strive to provide employers with the highest quality of service, which includes educational resources that will make the lives of your employees better. Through BASIC’s HR Assist Lite service, clients have access to free quarterly harassment prevention training webinars designed specifically for supervisors. In addition to covering an employer’s legal obligations and best practices for preventing sexual harassment, this web training also covers other forms of unlawful harassment in the protected categories of race and disability. Click here to request an HR Assist Lite proposal today!