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A Better Partnership

Publications

Feb 2006
15
February 15, 2006

Is It Time for a Harassment Policy Checkup?

On almost a weekly basis, you can read in the local and national newspapers about huge jury verdicts for victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. Just a few years ago, a Michigan jury awarded more than $21 million in damages to a DaimlerChrysler employee who was the victim of sexual harassment. Although the Michigan Supreme Court later set aside that verdict and sent the case back for a new trial, DaimlerChrysler still spent a small fortune defending the case.

Every employer knows that an antiharassment policy is critical to preventing workplace harassment and defending against harassment claims. Nevertheless, many employers have policies that are legally inadequate, or worse yet, the employer has a good policy but fails to back it up with training and good management practices. Take United Parcel Service, for example. In 2005, a federal appeals court held that even though UPS had an antiharassment policy and even though the victim never formally complained, the company still could be liable because management personnel were aware of sexually harassing conduct and failed to take appropriate steps to stop it.

So what is it that you should do to help protect your organization and its employees from improper workplace harassment? First, review your policy. It should address not only sexual harassment but also harassment based on any characteristic protected by state or federal law. Among other things, this includes religion, national origin, age and disability. Second, and equally important, train your supervisors and your employees in the policy and their obligations under it. Employees and supervisors must understand not only what not to do or say but also their obligation to report improper workplace harassment to the appropriate person(s). Your policy should be reviewed and training should be conducted on an annual basis.

If you need any assistance in developing a proper antiharassment policy, training your workforce, or any other employment matters, please contact Rob Dubault or any member of our Labor and Employment Law Practice Group.

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