Sexual harassment policies toothless without enforcement

Many companies in Tennessee mean well when they develop sexual harassment policies, but enforcement makes the difference in the lives of employees. An attorney and university instructor said that managers must take responsibility for ensuring that employees follow the rules.

He added that consistent application of the rules against sexual harassment mattered. When evidence supported allegations, companies needed to impose consequences on offenders. All employees needed to be aware of those consequences as well. Disclosing the outcome of enforcement actions would communicate to employees that the sexual harassment policy actually mattered.

An attorney currently representing someone being sued by a Hollywood producer for a rape accusation said that many people did not really understand their workplace policies. The policies seem abstract, and people have trouble applying the rules to real-world scenarios.

Facebook has signaled that it wants to set a better example as an employer. The company publicly published its rules regarding workplace harassment and bullying along with its investigation and enforcement methods. Although the company has been the target of multiple sexual harassment complaints, a Facebook representative said that the company is trying to encourage other companies to be clear about their harassment policies.

An employer's investigation of sexual harassment allegations, however, does not always resolve the problem for an employee. A person who believes that an employer has responded inadequately to complaints about requests for sexual favors, lewd comments or retaliation could reach out to an attorney for help. An attorney could assemble evidence for a lawsuit to hold an employer accountable for tolerating the person's mistreatment or financially damaging a career. Evidence such as text messages, company emails, payroll records and witness testimony could be presented by an attorney during pretrial negotiations or in court.

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