Both federal and state laws strictly prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace as a form of unlawful sex and gender discrimination. Sexual harassment can also create a hostile and toxic working environment, which can impact employees’ productivity and increase employee turnover.
You would expect that employers would want to take complaints of possible sexual harassment seriously and address them immediately to protect their workforces and maintain productivity. However, too many companies downplay sexual harassment and disregard victims instead of properly responding to complaints or allegations brought by employees. Why would employers ever want to do this?
Legal and Financial Liability
There are different ways that a company can face legal and financial liability for sexual harassment among its workforce. These are:
- Someone with superior authority makes sexual advances on an employee and conditions their job on their response. This can include offering promotions for sexual conduct or threatening termination if they refuse.
- An employee complains of potential sexual harassment to a supervisor, human resources, or through another channel. The employer does not take proper action to stop the conduct, which creates a hostile work environment for the harassment victim or others in the workplace.
- An employee complains of possible sexual harassment at work, and the employer responds with adverse employment action, which is unlawful retaliation.
If any of these situations occur and the victim of sexual harassment takes legal action, the employer could be liable for damages to the employee. Damages might include back pay, emotional distress, wrongful termination, and more. Instead of doing the right thing, some companies try to sweep sexual harassment under the rug to avoid liability. This can be an unsuccessful tactic, however, and might even increase liability for the employer should the employee bring a successful sexual harassment claim.
Protecting the Company Reputation
In recent years, many high-profile companies, organizations, celebrities, and political leaders have faced very public allegations of sexual harassment, many of which stemmed from the “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements. These allegations made – and continue to make – major headlines, tarnishing the reputations of both organizational leaders and companies in general.
Many companies automatically go on the defensive when they hear a complaint of possible harassment in a desperate attempt to avoid any reputational damage. This can only make the situation worse for the company, however, if the sexual harassment is proven in a legal claim.
What if Your Employer Denies Sexual Harassment?
It takes courage to complain of sexual harassment, and it can be devastating when your employer downplays the situation. Keep in mind that you have rights whether your employer admits you experienced harassment or not. You should immediately schedule a consultation with a workplace sexual harassment attorney.
An attorney can assess your options, which can include negotiating with your employer when possible or initiating the claim process. You deserve to be fully heard and your rights protected in the wake of sexual harassment at work, and you want the right California harassment lawyers on your side as soon as possible.