The Employer's Legal Resource: "Constant Reminders" - Are You Issuing Them?
On November 14, EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill warned employers that their "Managers must constantly be reminded of their obligation to maintain workplaces where employees are not subjected to illegal harassment" and discrimination. Ms. O'Neill's warning might fall on deaf ears that are currently attuned to the frenzied clamor over the looming "fiscal cliff" had she not also announced that the EEOC's Albuquerque Office had just secured its second largest settlement ever: $1 million to settle a class sexual harassment suit against IHOP restaurants in New Mexico. The EEOC accused the employer of failing to take reasonable steps to prevent or respond to harassment perpetrated against at least 22 women. The harassment included offensive sexual comments, innuendo, and unwanted touching. As usual the consent decree settling the suit requires IHOP to launch "antidiscrimination training&rdq uo; in order to constantly remind managers and supervisors of their important role in preventing harassment and discrimination, as well as how to properly respond to it.
If your organization is not providing regular anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training to educate and equip managers to effectively fulfill their legal duty to prevent and correct promptly any harassing or discriminatory behavior, then it runs the risk of being sued for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent and remedy harassment and discrimination. Evaluate the various ways your organization is creatively, effectively, and constantly reminding managers and supervisors of the seriousness of maintaining a professional workplace where every team member is treated with dignity and respect and where equal employment opportunity is genuinely encouraged.
By Christopher S. Thrutchley, firstname.lastname@example.org