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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment word cloud concept

Hopefully the headline of this article or the news headlines of 2017 got your attention. If not, please check your pulse.  Sexual harassment isn’t a new phenomenon.  Last year we witnessed many people step forward and tell their stories.   Their claims detailing decades of improper and unacceptable behavior played out in front of us.

Employers, now more than ever need to be aware of issues, both internal and external, that can impact their business.  Unfortunately, rather than anticipate these issues, many businesses react to them and often too late.  Waiting for problems to develop almost ensures that they will. Having a plan and communicating it are keys to any successful business.

Spend time reviewing your business:  Do you have a plan?  Have you clearly communicated the plan?  Does your organization understand it?  If you are unsure, a good place to start is to seek a reference.  I recommend The HR Specialist (, a monthly newsletter that engages the reader with brief articles on current Human Resource issues and trends.

The January 2018 edition has a great article entitled “Conduct a new year’s review of your harassment policy”.  Even if you don’t have a policy the article provides a good basis for developing one.  The seven points outlined will improve your organization:

  1. Broadly define the type of conduct that constitutes sexual harassment as well as specific examples.
  2. Make clear that offenders will be subject to appropriate discipline, up to and including termination.
  3. Establish a procedure that provides names and contact information of whom employees can report misconduct to.
  4. Require all employees to report any offensive conduct that they experience or witness.
  5. Assure employees they won’t be retaliated against for reporting harassment or serving as a witness.
  6. Promise that all reports of sexual harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and prompt remedial action will be taken should the organization conclude that sexual harassment occurred.
  7. Review these items with your organization, distribute it in writing, include it in your handbook and post it on the office bulletin board.

So, what happens if a claim arises?  I recommend that my business clients secure Employment Practices Liability (EPL) Insurance.  This can protect them and their businesses against claims arising from:

  • Breach of Contract
  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Wrongful Termination
  • Discrimination
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Wage & Hour Law
  • FMLA Violations

Coverage can also be provided for claims arising from a third party who is not an employee.  Even if the employer is found to be innocent, defense costs can be considerable, and this coverage can be an effective method of transferring that risk.

Benjamin Franklin cautioned “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.  Start working on your plan today.  The business insurance team at the Lehigh Agency can help.  Preventing problems in the workplace is a far better approach than reacting to them!

Jim Honochick, President
Lehigh Agency

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