In less than a year, Fox News has lost its founder and one of its most well-known anchors due to widespread sexual harassment allegations. Fox News recently reported that 20th Century Fox paid $10 million in sexual harassment settlements in the first quarter of 2017 alone. How can Fox News be proactive in avoiding harassment claims in the future? Prevention is the best tool to avoiding claims. Here are some essential steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment.
1. Disseminate a workplace harassment policy that complies with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The policy should encompass all forms of unlawful harassment based upon all protected classes, not just sexual harassment; although sexual harassment should be separately discussed within the policy.
2. The policy must be communicated to all employees at the time of their hire and should also be posted in the workplace. Employees should be given an acknowledgement to sign so that they acknowledge that they have read and that they understand the policy.
3. The policy must contain an effective complaint procedure that affords the employee bringing the complaint the opportunity to bypass the alleged harasser; however, the complaint procedure should not be too broad so as to encompass everyone at the organization.
4. The policy must contain an anti-retaliation provision, ensuring that the employees are aware that they will not be retaliated against for complaining internally, filing lawsuits/charges, or participating in an investigation.
5. The policy must not guarantee confidentiality; rather, it should state that, to the extent possible, complaints will be kept confidential. Obviously, an employer can’t keep a complaint confidential to the extent it must share the allegations during the course of an investigation. An employer, however, can guarantee that it won’t share the allegations with those who don’t have a reason to know them.
6. Employees (both managers and employers) should be trained on preventing sexual harassment and other forms of harassment at the time of hire and every two years.
7. Don’t require employees to put their harassment complaints in writing.
8. Respond to complaints immediately by conducting thorough and unbiased investigations.
9. Take appropriate remedial action following substantiated complaints of unlawful harassment by issuing disciplinary action commensurate with the substantiated conduct and continuing to monitor the relationship and the alleged harasser’s conduct toward others.
10. Keep your eyes and ears open and mandate that your supervisors do the same–if they see something, they must say something. Moreover, rumored allegations also should be explored.