How companies may avoid sexual harassment lawsuits

Some Tennessee employees who are sexually harassed at work might first try to resolve the issue internally according to procedures set forth in the company manual. Unfortunately, some companies are more concerned with protecting themselves than their employees. In some high-profile sexual harassment cases, such as a class action suit against Sterling Jewelers, employees said that the resources that were supposed to help protect them could instead be used to hurt their careers.

According to one attorney, he was told by a corporate lawyer in charge of one company's sexual harassment policies that those policies were in place to protect the company from legal action. A woman who used a hotline at Sterling Jewelers says she was told she needed a thicker skin. Sterling Jewelers was also one of several companies that required employees to use internal arbitration systems.

A better approach for a company is to have a concrete and consistent policy and a transparent process for investigating claims of sexual harassment. These claims should be investigated by an outside party.

People who believe they are facing sexual harassment on the job may want to talk to an attorney before they go through channels at work to report it. This may ensure that they have a clear grasp of their rights and a better understanding of how to protect themselves and keep the right to take the company to court if necessary. An attorney can also explain the steps people should take if they are facing retaliation after reporting sexual harassment. Retaliation may range from comments or actions that create a hostile working environment for the employee to refusing a promotion or even firing the employee.

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