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A preventive approach is the best sexual harassment policy

Depending upon the industry, sexual harassment on the job gets reported by 25 to 70 percent of female employees. When it results in a lawsuit, the employer loses 70 percent of the time with an average payout of $200,000. Training is not mandated by federal law nor by Indiana state law, but proper training is both the best way to avoid having the problem to begin with and to minimize liability should it result in a lawsuit.

Sexual harassment policies should emphasize an active education process. Simply handing out information to new hires is not sufficient. It should be accompanied by explanations and an effort to check if the individual actually understands. This includes making sure managers and others who are required to enforce the policy are aware of their duties and know how to effectively respond to complaints.

Management must take all complaints seriously and respond in a timely fashion. This includes prompt investigation of every complaint by someone qualified to investigate. If the managers are not qualified, complaints should go to either an Ethics Officer or the Human Relations department.

It is important to be diligent in applying these policies. Companies that can prove they made a good faith effort are less likely to have to pay punitive damages in the case of a lawsuit. Properly documenting everything can provide a paper trail that helps provide additional protection.

Legal counsel is a necessity when a company is sued for sexual harassment. However, since the preventive approach is the best approach, it can also be a good idea to have company policy and training procedures reviewed by someone knowledgeable about this area of law before there is trouble. This can allow adjustments to be made that may help prevent a lawsuit and may also limit damages.

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