Even though an employee failed to report ongoing sexual harassment by her supervisor or to make use of the posted complaint process, a recent court decision will allow her sexual harassment claim to proceed to trial. The employee, along with many others, stated she had no knowledge of the workplace anti-harassment policy or the complaint procedure for reporting harassment. The employer, a school board, had posted their anti-harassment policy on a bulletin board as well as on their website, but the court said that wasn’t enough. The court found evidence the school board did not make sufficient efforts to train employees about the anti-harassment policy.
Anti-Harassment Training for Employees: A Critical Step
If an employee suffers an adverse employment action as a result of a supervisor’s sexual harassment, the employer is automatically liable. Fortunately, the complaining employee didn’t suffer a tangible employment action, so this employer at least had the opportunity to defend itself by showing that:
the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct sexual harassment; and
the employee didn’t take advantage of preventative or remedial opportunities provided by the employer.
In this case, the court ruled the school board failed to prove it exercised reasonable care when its only efforts were to post the anti-harassment policy on a bulletin board and website, but failed to individually train employees or provide them copies of the anti-harassment policy (Pullen v. Caddo Parish School Board, 5th Cir, July 2016).
Tips: A clearly stated harassment policy coupled with employee sexual harassment training are essential to preventing, and effectively addressing, harassment at work. All employees, including temporary employees, should be regularly trained on the company’s anti-harassment policy and harassment complaint procedure. Maintain records of attendees’ names, dates of training, and any materials provided at the trainings. For more information, see our “Policy Against Harassment” and ask your Vigilant employment attorney for anti-harassment training opportunities.