2 When must a victim report sexual harassment in order for the harasser to be punished? Although headlines report victims coming forward after a decade or more, federal, state, and local laws all limit the time to take legal action against a harasser. New York State and New York City each allow three years from the date of harassment while agencies like the EEOC have shorter time periods.
Dealers should focus on the overall dealership culture rather than just what is legally considered sexual harassment when working to prevent workplace sexual harassment. Employees may find a workplace culture toxic long before it reaches the legal threshold of sexual harassment. Studies show that creating a culture that discourages sexual harassment may lead to higher employee retention. Steps to Create a Culture of Respect • Respect starts at the top! Management should be modeling appropriate language, actions, and behavior, including not joking about being“politically correct”or staying out of trouble with HR. • Make sure employees are able to report behavior that may not be legal harassment but that makes them uncomfortable at work, whether the behavior is directed at them or a coworker. • Don’t allow supervisors or managers to “bully”their subordinates as this behavior can easily lead to sexual harassment. Even if your dealership has taken steps – having clear policies, providing effective training, and creating a culture of respect – to prevent sexual harassment, it may occur anyway. If sexual harassment does occur, the first step is investigating the claim to determine the appropriate response. INVESTIGATIONS SHOULD COVER THE F OLLOWING STEPS:
What if a dealer learns about sexual harassment that took place several years ago? If an individual incident took place so long ago that legal action cannot be taken against the alleged sexual harasser, dealers are still advised to investigate, as detailed on page 3. This will ensure that the sexual harassment has not been ongoing and that your dealership does everything possible to discourage other potential sexual harassment. A dealer’s first step should be to contact ERP or your dealership’s employment counsel whenever an employee complains about sexual harassment.
8 Steps to Investigate Claims of Sexual Harassment
1. Meet with the complaining employee to conduct an in-person interview and obtain a written report about the details of the alleged incident(s). 2. Meet with the alleged offender to conduct an interview and obtain a written report of their version of events. 3. Interview witnesses who can either confirm or contradict each party’s account. 4. Review each party’s personnel file to get further information about their relationship and whether there have been prior complaints about or made by either party. 5. Conduct any necessary follow-up interviews and review all information to determine if the alleged incident(s) in fact occurred.
6. If the incident(s) did not occur and the allegation was made in bad faith, consult with ERP or your lawyer to determine what disciplinary action may be taken against the complaining employee . 7. If the incident(s) did occur, determine the proper response, whether it is ensuring the two parties no longer work in the same department or on the same shift, retraining the offender, issuing a verbal or written warning, suspension, or termination. 8. Have a wrap-up meeting with the complaining employee to tell them about the investigation’s outcome. If the alleged offender remains on staff, advise the complaining employee to immediately report any further actions or retaliation against them.