Should every employer have an anti-harassment policy?
UPDATED: February 6, 2020
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As a general matter, it's a good idea for every employer to have harassment laws in place, such as a sexual harassment policy or an anti-harassment policy. Having these policies in place can go a long way toward protecting an employer from a sexual harassment lawsuit or other civil rights lawsuit.
There are a wide array of protections available under the law that protect individuals from being harassed or discriminated against. Under various pieces of civil rights legislation, employee discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability or any other protected status is prohibited. These civil rights laws vary by state. The employee is protected in terms being hired, fired or promoted, and in regards to any of the terms and conditions of employment.
This means an employee can sue if he or she is being sexually harassed, or harassed in any other way, in the workplace, or if the workplace is a hostile work environment on the basis of that employee's protected status. The employee who is the victim of harassment or discrimination can sue not just the harasser, but the actual company itself for the harassment. Whether a company will be liable, and/or whether the company will have to pay punitive damages, will depend in large part on whether there were resources available to the employee to stop the harassing behavior.
A good anti-harassment policy will not only forbid sexual harassment or harassment or any other kind, but it will also provide a means with which the employee can report harassment to people who are able to take action. For example, the employee must have the option of going to both a boss or higher up individual, but also a separate entity like a human resources department in case the boss is the harasser or is condoning the harassment.
If you have any further questions concerning sexual harassment law, contact a sexual harassment attorney who can answer your questions and offer advice about your anti-harassment policy.