How Having a Harassment Reporting Policy in Place Can Protect Your Business

May 4, 2020
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Policies and Procedures notebooks

Running a business isn’t always easy. While there is plenty of freedom to make your own decisions, with this power comes a tremendous amount of responsibility. Whether it’s deciding on the next capital expenditure or which job applicant to hire, there are so many decisions that can affect the future success or failure of your business.

But another factor to consider is the well-being of your employees. One aspect, in particular, is to foster a work environment that is free from bullying and harassment. But this is easier said than done. Even with plenty of due diligence during the hiring process, employee conflict is still a strong possibility.

This is why you need to take a multi-pronged approach to prevent and stop workplace harassment. One of the most important aspects of this approach is implementing an adequate harassment reporting policy.

Without a reporting system in place, your business faces potential danger from various fronts, including legal, financial and employee well-being. To help you develop and institute such a system, it’s a good idea to consult with a skilled and experienced Maryland employer defense attorney, such as one from the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford.

Legal Protection

Reducing the risk of legal liability might be the strongest motivation to create a harassment reporting policy. There are two major reasons for this.

First, the reporting policy will make it easier to both learn about any harassment that is taking place and do something about it. If you’re serious about the prevention and elimination of harassment in your Maryland place of business, you’ll want to establish a process where employees can report any harassment they experience or observe.

It’s often hard enough for employees to decide to come forward with a report of harassment. You don’t need to make things harder for your employees by not making it clear who the employee should report to or what the reporting process will be like.

Second, if you do find yourself in litigation, having a reporting policy can potentially reduce the legal liability of your business. One of the best examples of this is the Faragher-Ellerth defense. This legal defense can help employers avoid vicarious liability for the sexual harassment of their employees when no concrete adverse employment event (such as a firing) has taken place.

To use this defense, an employer must demonstrate that it took reasonable steps to prevent and fix any sexual harassment in the workplace. The employer must also show that the victim of sexual harassment did not take advantage of employer policies in place that were designed to remedy sexual harassment. If your business has no harassment reporting policy, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to use this defense.

Financial Protection

In addition to reducing the chances of having to pay a legal settlement or judgment in a harassment lawsuit, a harassment reporting policy can help avoid financial losses in other ways.

When harassment takes place at work, it can lead to lower productivity and a drop in worker morale. For example, the victims of harassment may call in sick more often or take time away from work to see a doctor concerning the emotional or physical health problems stemming from the harassment.

Then there are the potential distractions that can come from the harassment. It may be minor, such as office gossip and rumors. But it can also take a more serious and problematic form.

For instance, if your business has no harassment reporting policy in place, an employee might instead report the harassment to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights.

Imagine the distraction for your business when outside investigators contact your business to investigate a complaint lodged by one of your employees. And this investigation may occur even if the complaint of harassment is completely unfounded. It would have been far better if that employee could have filed his or her complaint using an internal process instead of bringing in an outside government agency.

Failing to have a harassment reporting system in place can make it more likely that any of these money-losing scenarios can take place.

Employee Protection

A business is able to achieve what it does because of its employees. So protecting the business also includes protecting the employees from harm, whether it’s from clients, customers, falling objects, chemicals or the actions of other employees.

Just like how you would have a policy in place for reporting a workplace accident, you need to have a policy in place to report workplace harassment. A reporting policy may not prevent all types of harassment, but it can help stop it should it take place. The more you do to prevent and stop harassment, the more your employees and your bottom line will be protected.

A Maryland Employer Defense Attorney Can Help You Create a Harassment Reporting Policy for Your Business

To get more information on creating, updating or implementing a harassment reporting policy, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a Maryland employer defense attorney. If you’re ready to create a policy, or just have a few questions, don’t hesitate to call (410)514-6099 or contact the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford online.