It seems as if a report of workplace sexual harassment or sexual battery is published nearly daily. While the media focuses upon notable public figures, workplace harassment can occur at any company. In many of those reports, it seems that the environment was not conducive to reporting the alleged misconduct or to obtaining an internal remedy. Employers would be well advised to publish anti-harassment policies, conduct anti-harassment raining and to make available bona fide reporting and corrective protocols. Doing so is protective of the workforce and legally can serve as a shield to claims. For example, in Morgan v. Triumph Aerostructures, LLC, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee gave credit to an employer’s proactive steps in addressing harassment by dismissing an employee’s claims for sex discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment under Title VII and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
Summary judgment was appropriate because the employer established its entitlement to the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense by proving it had promulgated and enforced an anti-harassment policy. Notably, the employer provided discrimination and harassment training, ensured that employees were aware of how to report harassment, fully investigated the complaints of the plaintiff, and engaged in remedial action thereafter. The importance of effective anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training should not be underestimated. Employers should periodically review their policies and conduct regular training to ensure (a) that all employees know how to report harassment and (b) that supervising employees are equipped to properly investigate and intervene when a complaint has been made.
A Jackson Lewis webinar on this topic is slated for December 14. Details can be found by clicking here.