What to Do If Your Employee Complains about Sexual Harassment

Author: Stephen D. Hans

There are many ways an employer can respond when an employee complains about sexual harassment.  Some ways are savvy and legal and other ways violate New York and federal laws.

Sexual harassment is an unpleasant issue. Consequently, employers may want to avoid investigation, ignore the issue, and hope it goes away.  Legally, this is not effective for several reasons. When an employer fails to take any action to correct a sexual harassment problem, the employee is entitled to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Or, even worse, suppose rather than confronting the employee accused of sexual harassment, the employer sympathetically asks the overwhelmed employee if she would rather have the company just cut her final paycheck. This seemingly considerate approach that commiserates with the victim’s desire to escape the abuser can backfire and result in a retaliation case.

Burlington v. White  was a Supreme Court case heard in 2006 that changed how courts nationwide view of retaliation. In this case, the Supreme Court concluded that the employer’s actions must be harmful to the point that they could well dissuade a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination. Encouraging an employee to solve a harassment problem by quitting insinuates that nothing can be done about the harassment and could be viewed as dissuading the employee from filing discrimination charges.

If sexual harassment or discrimination is an issue with employees, consult a New York employment defense lawyer . An attorney can help you put the proper employment practices in place and avoid lawsuits.

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