How some employers mishandle sexual harassment complaints

Frank S. Clowney III

When an employee in California first complains about sexual harassment, his or her employer has an opportunity to resolve the situation so that it does not result in a lawsuit. However, many employers mishandle sexual harassment complaints and end up making the situation worse for their employees and for themselves. Before an act of sexual harassment takes place, employers also make mistakes by failing to set up sound policies for addressing these types of serious complaints.

Sometimes, the established sexual harassment policy at a workplace makes it difficult for the employer to mitigate the effects of this behavior. For example, a policy that requires an employee to report sexual harassment to supervisors only may not work for an employee whose situation calls for an alternate reporting channel. Policies that do not prohibit dating between supervisors and subordinates can also result in a lot of sexual harassment-related issues when these relationships end or lead to favoritism.

Employers that receive complaints about sexual harassment must take these complaints seriously no matter what personal opinions they might have about the accuser. Failure to investigate a complaint or inform the harasser that this type of behavior is not acceptable could result in charges from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Employers that retaliate against workers for bringing sexual harassment complaints are also in violation of federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

An employee who has endured sexual harassment at the workplace may want to talk to a lawyer about the details of the case. If the act of sexual harassment caused the employee to lose the job or miss out on a promotion, a lawyer may be able to help the employee pursue compensation for these financial damages. Employees who have been sexually harassed on the job may also be entitled to monetary compensation for emotional distress.