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Idaho Employment Law September 19, 2013 Newsletter

Thwarting Sexual Harassment At Your Business

The mention of sexual harassment strikes fear in many employers primarily due to a lack of information and an apparent vagueness in the law. However, armed with accurate information, there are steps employers can take to reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring. The first step in preventing sexual harassment at your place of business is to understand what constitutes sexual harassment and to ensure the employees also have a clear understanding.

Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature . Harassment does not necessarily have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. It can also include conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

Essentially, any conduct of a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable has the potential to be viewed as sexual harassment. If you run a business, the best policy is to make sure everybody in the workplace understands what behavior constitutes harassment and discrimination. To prevent harassment in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests that e mployers should establish, distribute to all employees, and enforce a policy prohibiting harassment and setting out a procedure for making complaints. In most cases, the policy and procedure should be in writing. Additionally, the employer should provide training to all of its employees. The employer should also provide separate training for its supervisors. The best training is not through an on-line video with questions to answer at the end of the training. It is recommended that the employer provide live instruction with an opportunity for the employees to ask questions during the class and allow for questions after the class ends with the instructor. Idaho Employment Law Solutions has expertise in drafting and reviewing employee handbooks with an eye toward unambiguously presenting policies and procedures in a way that both the employer and employees understand; and yet, ensuring that the interest of both the employer and employees are fairly represented and protected. Additionally, Idaho Employment Law Solutions has presented classes on sexual harassment to both public and private employers.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides practical guidance regarding the duty of employers to prevent and correct harassment and the duty of employees to avoid harassment by using their employers' complaint procedures:

  • An employer should correct harassment that is clearly unwelcome regardless of whether a complaint is filed. For example, if there is graffiti in the workplace containing racial or sexual epithets, management should not wait for a complaint before erasing it.
  • An employer should ensure that its supervisors and managers understand their responsibilities under the organization's anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures.
  • An employer should screen applicants for supervisory jobs to see if they have a history of engaging in harassment. If so, and the employer hires such a candidate, it must take steps to monitor actions taken by that individual in order to prevent harassment.
  • An employer should keep records of harassment complaints and check those records when a complaint of harassment is made to reveal any patterns of harassment by the same individuals.
If you are a business dealing with a sexual harassment claim, contact Idaho Employment Law Solutions. We have experience helping employers navigate the unwelcome territory of sexual harassment proceedings.

 


The Litigation Process of Sexual Harassment Law

Generally, most employers will have policies which in letter and spirit provide protection that mirror the requirements of the applicable federal and state laws. However, there are those times when the employer and employee cannot resolve their differences within the confines of the employer’s rules and policies. When the matter cannot be resolved in-house then inevitably, as the existence of the state and federal judicial system attest, some cases will proceed through the pre-requisite administrative steps and may proceed to litigation. Idaho Employment Law Solutions can be retained as counsel for either the employer or the employee in these cases.

Learn more about the litigation process in sexual harassment claims by reading a hypothetical Idaho case:


Frequently Asked Questions about the Litigation Process

Q. What will happen if a case cannot be resolved through the use of internal procedures and the aggrieved party seeks further redress?

If Idaho Employment Law Solutions can settle your case without filing a lawsuit, we save the client time, money, and emotional energy. Often a case cannot be settled immediately and there are some cases that will never and should never be settled given the nature of the case; however, these cases are rare. Even in a case of sexual harassment where the client perceives that they have been a victim of outrageous behavior, and the employer believes that it is completely in the right, given the state of the law, settling the case may be the best outcome for both the employer and employee. Idaho Employment Law Solutions will always recommend settling the dispute when the settlement offer is reasonable. However, Idaho Employment Law Solutions recognizes that the decision to settle rests ultimately with the client.

Q. How long will it take?

If mediation fails, the Idaho Human Rights Commission’s or the EEOC’s investigation could take anywhere from six months to more than a year. After a lawsuit has been filed, the court date will probably be a minimum of one year into the future. In total, a case of alleged discrimination may take over 2.5 years to go to a jury trial.

Q. Is a sexual harassment case tried in civil or criminal court?

A sexual harassment case is a civil case. An employee may think the actions of the defendant are criminal; but, as a general proposition, a sexual harassment claim will always be tried in civil court. Cases filed in civil court are governed by the rules of civil procedure. If the case is filed in federal court, the federal rules of civil procedure are applicable. The rules of civil procedure are designed to identify the relevant facts and issues and ensure that there are no surprises as the case proceeds to trial.

Q. When can settlement negotiations take place?

Settlement negotiations can take place at any stage of the pre-litigation and litigation process (even after trial).  In the end, over 90% of cases do settle.

Q. What is a “Right to Sue” letter?

A “Right to Sue Letter” represents the fact that the complainant has exhausted all administrative remedies and is the document needed to file a case in either state or federal court. The complainant has 90 days from the issuance of the “Right to Sue Letter" to file a lawsuit in state or federal court.


3 Benefits of Hiring an Employment Lawyer for Your Discrimination Case

  1. ExperienceFormal administrative procedures and our court system are very complex and seem foreign to many people. Most clients who contact Idaho Employment Law Solutions for help with their case have never been involved in lengthy administrative law procedures and never dreamed they would be. We don’t wish discrimination upon anyone, but in the unfortunate event that it occurs, we’re here to make the process easier. We have years of experience handling discrimination cases and know how to navigate the process toward a favorable outcome.

  2. We save you moneyLitigation is expensive. That’s why if Idaho Employment Law Solutions can settle your case without filing a lawsuit, we save you time, money, and emotional energy. If either party chooses to pursue a lawsuit, costs will only increase. Settlement negotiations can happen at any point during the pre-litigation and litigation processes, so 90% of cases eventually settle. We’re familiar with the steps of the pre-litigation and litigation processes, and we know how and when to settle a case. Idaho Employment Law Solutions will always recommend settling the dispute when the settlement conditions are reasonable.

  3. Peace of mind Nobody wants to be involved in a lawsuit. Formal legal procedures and the potential outcomes are daunting. Navigating the process on your own is difficult without trained expertise, so putting your case in the hands of a trusted lawyer will give you peace of mind and save you considerable time and stress. A case of alleged discrimination can take over 2.5 years to go to jury trial, so don’t spend those years worrying about whether you will be able to resolve the case in your favor. Trust us to represent you well.


This Week in Labor History

On September 15, 1970, more than 350,000 members of the United Auto Workers begin what is to become a 69-day strike against General Motors.

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Past Newsletters

September 4, 2013 Newsletter

August 15, 2013 Newsletter

August 7, 2013 Newsletter

July 23, 2013 Newsletter

July 2, 2013 Newsletter