Recent headlines about large scale sexual harassment allegations at Uber and the parent corporation of Kay Jewelers highlight the increased risk faced by today’s employers for costly litigation arising out of their workforce.
Recent headlines about large scale sexual harassment allegations at Uber and the parent corporation of Kay Jewelers highlight the increased risk faced by today’s employers for costly litigation arising out of their workforce. The risks and costs of employment litigation have never been higher for employers. The costs of negative publicity, lost revenue and employee morale may be more than any damages payable to aggrieved employees. Worse, as in the Uber and Signet Jewelers cases, company management may be unaware of the alleged problems until litigation is filed, and left without significant defenses or the opportunity to timely investigate before the allegations become public.
Proactive employers should learn three critical lessons from these headline-grabbing cases:
1. The Time is Now to Create/Review/Update Anti-Harassment Policies, Reporting and Investigation Procedures
Employers who don’t have, or don’t actively enforce, policies that provide protection against harassment and discrimination claims are needlessly vulnerable to claims that may, or may not, have merit. Policies and procedures that provide for prompt reporting, investigation and resolution of these claims need to be accurate, compliant with statutory and regulatory frameworks and kept current with changes in the law.
2. Regular In-House Training
The Uber/Signet Jeweler cases demonstrate that policies and procedures are of little help if they aren’t thoroughly understood and engaged by management, HR and employees. The best way to insure these policies are effective is to make sure all key employees are trained and understand the function of the policies, and that regular, documented efforts are made to communicate these policies to employees.
3. The Best Defense Is A Good Offense
Harassment and discrimination claims are unsettling and can be uncomfortable to address, but too many employers learn the hard way that avoiding these issues not only fails to make them go away, it leads to far larger problems and liability. Employers should have an active and committed plan in place to immediately address discrimination complaints, and know how to conduct investigations that are thorough, objective, well-documented and that achieve prompt resolutions.
Our Employment Law team can answer your questions about Discrimination and Harassment claims, and help you address these issues before they create costly litigation—and headlines.