Employers can expect to see an increase in sexual harassment claims and complaints. Some may be exaggerated or involve actions that simply do not rise to the level of harassment. Some may be stale, years-old allegations that are no longer legally actionable, or involve someone who has since left the company. But other claims will have merit. Therefore, all claims must be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated.
Employers should update their policies to clarify what behavior constitutes harassment and sexual harassment, and make everyone aware that there is zero tolerance for such behavior. Periodically train all supervisors, including senior and C-suite executives on the law regarding sexual harassment and the company’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. Employers should also make attendance at the necessary training and satisfactory compliance with anti-harassment and other personnel policies a component of job performance that is weighted in evaluations and considered in setting compensation and bonuses for senior leaders.
Public indignation at discovering that organizations have used hush money to repeatedly shield bad actors and hide their sexual harassment transgressions has led several states, including New York, New Jersey and California, to introduce legislation to ban non-disclosure provisions in agreements that settle discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims. If these bills become law, evidence of an employer settling prior sexual harassment allegations will be easier to uncover and could be used the next time accusations arise, causing significant financial harm and harm to reputation.