Court decision helps shield employers with good policies against harrasment lawsuits

Once again we are shown that proactively addressing employment law (and all other business planing issues) helps provide the best Asset Protection available while the most effective options still exist. In this brief update, Employment law attorney Rachel Weiss shares a case that illustrates the value and cost efficiency of having the right tools in place BEFORE you get sued or face other forms of employee claims.

A recent 8th Circuit decision should serve as a reminder to employers that a well-written anti-harassment policy provides a valuable defense to harassment claims. 

In Cross v. Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino, Inc., the employer’s policy explained that there would be zero tolerance for sexual harassment and listed various ways that employees could seek help if they believed they had been subjected to harassing behavior, including talking to a supervisor or going directly to Human Resources.  The policy further provided that an employee who is dissatisfied with the resolution of a complaint could address her concerns to a member of upper management or the CEO.  The plaintiff had complained to her supervisor that she was being harassment by her co-workers, but she was not satisfied with the way the situation was handled.  Although the employee was aware that there were other avenues for reporting the incidents, she failed to take advantage of any of them. 

 The Court concluded that even if plaintiff’s allegations were enough to establish a hostile work environment, summary judgment for the employer was justified because the employee failed to act reasonably in attempting to stop the harassment. 

Lesson:   Employers with effective sexual harassment policies are in a significantly better position to defend against a harassment claim.  

An effective policy should include, among other things, multiple avenues of redress.  Employees and managers need to be educated regarding the policy, which can be accomplished by conducting periodic sexual harassment training.  Employers also should have a procedure for taking immediate action upon receiving a complaint of harassment and should follow that procedure consistently. 

Please contact Ms. Weiss directly at (602) 256-4448 or rweiss@gblaw.com if you have any questions or would like assistance drafting and/or implementing a proper sexual harassment policy for your business while it will be effective and proactive.

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