Employees in New York who attempt to resolve sexual harassment issues in the workplace might find that their company is more interested in protecting itself than preventing sexual harassment. This appears to have been the case in some recent high-profile cases, such as a class-action arbitration against Sterling Jewelers. Employees reported that calling the internal sexual harassment hotline could be negative for their careers. The company’s internal arbitration system also prevented them from resolving the harassment outside the company.
Investigative processes at many companies may also lack transparency. Allegedly, the corporate attorney who dealt with sexual harassment at one company told another attorney while on the stand that the sexual harassment policy was meant to protect the company and not employees. Some companies may use a sexual harassment reporting system to get an early warning about potential lawsuits for which they can then begin to prepare.
There are a number of steps employers can take to improve their response to sexual harassment. Employers need to encourage workers to report discrimination and harassment. They need investigative processes that are transparent, and investigations should be carried out by a third party.
An individual who feels they are being sexually harassed at work may want to look up their employer’s policies on harassment and speak to an attorney about their rights. Individuals may want to make certain that in trying to initially resolve a harassment claim through workplace channels they do not put themselves at a disadvantage. They might also want to speak to an attorney about whether they are primarily seeking compensation or if they also want their job back if they have lost a job. An attorney may also help an individual decide whether to accept a settlement, if the company offers it, or to press ahead with a lawsuit in court.