Workplace harassment claims are costing employers millions of dollars in lawsuits and settlements. This is due to companies not having proper anti-harassment policies, not having proper preventative measures in place, not offering preventative training to employees and managers, not appropriately addressing the unlawful behavior when it was reported by the victim or witness, and for retaliating against individuals when they oppose the inappropriate behavior or participate in an EEO investigation. Millions of dollars are being awarded to victims because of how severe or pervasive the act was, emotional and physical stress incurred by the victim, wrong termination, loss of wages, attorney/court fees, and punitive damages against the company.
It should be clear to employers that harassment can have serious and adverse effects on them. Companies who think that they are immune or unlikely to have any issues related to workplace harassment are unrealistic. Just because harassment is not reported, it does not mean that it does not exist, and that is the reality. Many surveys have reported that an alarming 80% of workers have experienced some form of harassment or sexual harassment while on the job. There are several reasons why a company should try to deter workplace harassment. The first being employee safety, but another reason is that it could cost them significant amounts of money.
Employers have been held responsible by paying out millions to their employees who filed harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims against them. In the 2017 fiscal year alone, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), collected $395 million dollars in damages for victims and reported to have resolved 99,109 charges. Imagine what the monetary value of civil cases regarding harassment would be if the 70% of people who do not report harassment, actually reported it. Or, even only half of that.
- Ani Choppourian vs. Catholic Healthcare West, $168 million original verdict. Choppourian filed 18 complaints for workplace harassment and poor working conditions. She was subsequently wrongfully terminated, and her character was defamed. (2012).
- Ashley Ford vs. Aaron’s Rent, $91 million original verdict. An Aaron’s Rent employee was harassed and sexually assaulted by a manager. After repeated complaints, the company did not respond until after Ford was physically assaulted. (2011).
- Gretchen Carlos vs. Roger Ailes, $20 million settlement. Carlos filed a sexual harassment suit against her former co-worker for unlawfully retaliated she refused his sexual advances and complained about sexual harassment. (2016).
- Linda Gilbert vs. Daimler Chrysler, $21 million original verdict. Gilbert was harassed and sexually harassed by male co-workers for 7 years. (1999).
- An undisclosed female teen, $8 million verdict. Teen restaurant worker was sexually harassed when a 26-year-old manager was inappropriately groping the teen and later began a sexual relationship with her. Another manager knew about the inappropriate conduct and did not report it. (2016).
An employer is responsible for providing their workers a hostile and harassment-free working environment; therefore, they are accountable for the safety and security issues that takes place within the company. If companies are irresponsible and not properly addressing their employees’ complaints in a fair and impartial manner, then they should be prepared to answer for the inactions or unlawful actions. The need for business owners to understand that workplace harassment can not only lead to massive lawsuits, but it can decrease profit, loose employee productivity, and can lead to workplace violence.
It is essential for employers to pay more attention to equality and behaviors within their organization. Hiring a proactive HR team, hiring proactive management and leadership, implementing clear and detailed anti-harassment policies, conducting preventative workplace harassment trainings on a minimum of an annual basis, and soliciting periodic feedback/survey from employees are key ways to attempt to deter workplace harassment incidents.
As an employer, it should be a priority to promptly and fairly investigate any workplace harassment complaints. With legal costs that can rise aggressively and exponentially, it becomes obvious how critical it is for the employers to take workplace harassment issues seriously. The number of individuals that have been a victim or witness of workplace harassment is truly shocking, so it is only wise for employers to try to deter harassment and provide a safe and comfortable working environment for all their employees.
Meet the Author
Alana N. Williams is the CEO and Senior Investigator of J.A. Investigative Services, LLC. J.A. Investigative Services is a licensed and insured investigation agency that specializes in conducting professional and comprehensive Workplace Harassment Investigations and Workplace Harassment Prevention Training. Services and trainings are offered nationwide. Alana is a collegiate Criminal Justice Instructor and a police officer with 10 years of experience. Also, Alana is a Licensed Private Investigator and a Certified EEO Investigator that has conducted over 70 trainings and guest appearances with audiences of 200+.
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