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How to Handle Sexual Harassment in the Workplace as an Employee

Since every situation and person is different, you should act in a manner that makes you feel the most comfortable, supported, and safe.

If you believe you are being sexually harassed, you should always consult your employee handbook or policy and follow the procedure.  You should also put your complaint in writing and take notes on the details of the harassment.  The details should include information such as the date, time, and place of the incident.  Your notes should also include any witnesses and what was said and/or done during the incident. If the harassment was via a digital format, you should save a digital copy as well as a physical copy, if possible.

If you feel comfortable and safe confronting your harasser you should:

  1. Explain what behavior you feel is harassment, but be specific.
  2. Tell the harasser that the attention you are receiving and/or that their behavior is bothering you and making you uncomfortable.
  3. Then ask him/her/them to stop.
  4. You should also make a detailed note of this contact.
  5. Even though you have attempted to deal with this matter directly, you should still tell a supervisor, manager, human resource personnel, or another coworker of the steps you have taken in addition to the issue for your complaint.
  6. You can also contact an EEOC or MCAD counselor to discuss your rights even if you do not wish to file a complaint.
  7. You should continue to do a good job at work and keep copies of any reviews, evaluations, notes, memos or emails indicating you are doing a good job.

 

If you do not feel comfortable or safe confronting your harasser you should:

  1. Report it to a designated person as indicated in your employee handbook or policy. You should also tell a co-worker.
  2. Make a detailed note of your reporting the complaint.
  3. You can also contact an EEOC or MCAD counselor to discuss your rights even if you do not wish to file a complaint.
  4. Should you wish to file a formal complaint as a result of the harassment you have 180 days (approx. 6 months) to file with the EEOC or 300 days to file with the MCAD.
  5. Don’t be afraid to seek support from family and friends as this is a difficult situation to deal with.
  6. Continue to do a good job at work and keep copies of any reviews, evaluations, notes, memos or emails indicating you are doing a good job.

 

If you are being harassed at work and believe your rights have been violated you should consult an employment and/or civil rights lawyer.  The state and federal agencies that handle discrimination (the MCAD and the EEOC) also contain valuable information on their websites.  For a consultation regarding your right to be free from harassment contact us at info@cascanettlaw.com.

Enforceability & Liability of an Employee Handbook

How Often Should My Company Review its Employee Handbook?

It is imperative to regularly review and update one’s employee handbook to avoid liabilities.  More specifically, the individual needs of each workplace should be considered and assessed with the requirements of state and federal law.  Policies should be developed that reflect not only the size and philosophy of the company, but also the needs of its employees.  It’s prudent to have an employment lawyer review and regularly update one’s employee handbook in order to ensure it is enforceable and is written to shield the company from foreseeable liability, as it relates to its employees, past, present, and future. Without such review and implementation, employers can make themselves vulnerable to litigation for having outdated, erroneous, or absent policies that could protect them.

The specific language of the policies can create liabilities not intended by employers.  If policies become too specific and/or do not contain disclaiming language,  an implied contract can be created.  Implied contracts can overrides the liberal policies of being an at-will employment state.  Thus, opening up employers to liabilities and lawsuits it never intended.

What Topics Should My Employee Handbook Cover?

At a minimum an employee handbook should cover the following topics:

  1. 1. That employment is at-will (this should be addressed regularly throughout the handbook)
  2. 2. A Non-harassment statement (as required by Massachusetts statute)
  3. 3. A social media policy
  4. 4. A standards of conduct policy
  5. 5. A signature page(s) (indicating an employee has received and accepts the handbook with due consideration); and an anti-retaliation policy.
  6. 6. An arbitration clause should be considered in order to limit the expense and time of traditional litigation.

It is prudent that these issues be reviewed and drafted by an employment attorney to avoid the creation of any unintentional liabilities such as an implied or actual employment contract, which would severely limit a company’s ability to terminate an employee.

New Case Law In Massachusetts

Recent Massachusetts case law indicates that clauses which indicate that an employer may change and/or add to its employee handbook without notice to employees can cause certain clauses to be unenforceable, especially those governing arbitration clauses.  As such, it is likely that to create an enforceable handbook that limits a company’s liability, the handbook may need to be divided into specific sections, which will likely require separate signatures from the employee.  This is a departure from the traditional handbook which has one signature indicating review and receipt of the handbook.

For consultation to draft an employee handbook, or for assistance reviewing and updating an employee handbook, contact Cascanett Law.

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