Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) January 7, 2019 - Recent statistics indicating a sharp upward spike in federal enforcement actions against workplace sexual harassment should serve as a wake-up call for any Texas employer not yet prepared and ready to respond when harassment claims are made by employees.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), enforcement actions for sexual harassment at work rose 50 percent during the past year. Complaints coming in to the EEOC are up too. Charges filed with the EEOC alleging sexual harassment increased by 13.6 percent from 2017 to 2018. Reasonable cause findings in sexual harassment cases increased by 23.6 percent during the same period of time.
Gregory D. Jordan, an employment attorney with the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan in Austin, Texas, remarked that, in the #MeToo age, employers should not be surprised to see an uptick in sexual harassment complaints as well as increased attention to the problem by government regulators.
“More than ever, it is critical for employers to respond quickly and act decisively to investigate and respond to claims of sexual harassment by employees,” Jordan says.The EEOC reported that it recovered $70 million on behalf of sexual harassment victims in FY 2018 — up from $47.5 million during the prior year.
The EEOC said that it was responding to increased public attention to workplace harassment issues engendered by the #MeToo social media movement and accounts of egregious workplace behavior by business leaders, government officials and entertainment industry celebrities.
“In the past twelve months, the country heard story after story of sexual harassment that just one year before might never have been told,” the EEOC wrote in a statement announcing the enforcement statistics. “The EEOC's mandate to enforce the nation's employment discrimination laws affords us a unique perspective and responsibility to address the pervasive problem of sexual harassment to which the rest of the nation is now awakening.”
Employers can see some of the reasons for which other businesses have been held liable for sexual harassment by reviewing EEOC statements accompanying the filing of enforcement actions. Failures to investigate, failures to act promptly and protect against retaliation are common themes in EEOC filings.
Mediacom Communications: “Despite their complaints, the company failed to take prompt, remedial action to stop the harassment.”
Daisy Dukes and Boots Saloon: “The EEOC alleges that Daisy Dukes reduced [the employee’s] hours after she complained about the harassment, and that [she] quit her job because of the reduction in hours and due to Daisy Dukes' failure to stop the sexual harassment.”
United Airlines: “United failed to prevent and correct the pilot's behavior, even after the flight attendant made numerous complaints and provided substantial evidence to support her complaints.”
Sys-Con LLC: “The EEOC further contends that Sys-Con had no anti-harassment policy, no complaint procedure for employees to report harassment, and had never trained supervisors or employees on sexual harassment or how to report it.”
Ecology Services Inc.: “The driver complained to her supervisor about the egregious harassment, but Ecology Services not only failed to stop the harassment, it continued to assign her to work with the harasser."
In these types of cases, liability risk arising from sexual harassment claims can be minimized by taking the following steps whenever a claim is made:
* Thoroughly investigate and promptly respond to every harassment claim, ideally with the assistance of outside counsel.
* Have in place policies outlining how the employer will respond to sexual harassment claims.
* Guard against any behavior that could be interpreted as retaliation against the accuser.
* Act promptly and decisively when an investigation bears out the employee’s complaint of sexual harassment.
Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan
5608 Parkcrest Drive, Suite 310
Austin, Texas 78731