Sexual harassment is one of the unfortunate realities employers have to deal with from time to time. Liability for sexual harassment can, like workplace discrimination, can be costly for businesses, so the incentive to come up with effective prevention and compliance programs is significant.
Surprisingly, though, some businesses either do not have sexual harassment policies in place or the policies and procedures they do have are inadequate. An example of this, albeit in the government sector, is seen in a lawsuit filed in Baton Rouge earlier this month by an employee of the Louisiana Housing Corporation.
The employee claims that she was sexually harassed by the agency’s executive director. The harassment was apparently reported shortly before the executive director resigned. Two days after the resignation, an investigation conducted by the Division of Administration concluded that executive director had established a hostile work environment and exhibited a pattern of sexual harassment.
The former executive has reportedly denied the claims and says that he resigned to protect his family. Sources provide little detail about the Division of Administration’s lack of a sexual harassment policy, but do say that the employee reported the executive for sexual harassment. The details of what exactly happened, though, are in dispute, which is typical.
Without knowing the details about any existing sexual harassment policy, it is hard to say what impact the policy may have had on the events which form the basis for the allegations and the litigation thus far. It is certainly safe to say, though, that companies that have well-outlined and advertised sexual harassment policies are better equipped to prevent such matters from escalating, and are better prepared to protect themselves from liability when allegations are unfounded. Businesses, of course, can certainly benefit from working with an experienced business law attorney to ensure they have an effective policy in place and that the company is well-represented when allegations do arise.