Sexual and other unlawful harassment issues have existed in the workplace for decades. However, current news has made the term a household name. We are inundated daily – on television, in the newspaper, and on the web -- with reports of sexual harassment. No industry seems safe from such allegations of sexual harassment and sometimes sexual assault – especially in light of increased focus on politicians, news reporters, entertainers, and sports figures.
Harassment (sexual as well as harassment based on other protected statuses) can lead to significant legal liability. Moreover, harassment is a cancer on the workplace and leads to poor morale, a loss of talent, and negative publicity and reputation. Nevertheless, many employers take a “that doesn’t happen here” approach and thus overlook the importance of having and enforcing effective anti-harassment policies and procedures, conducting anti-harassment training, and addressing the issue openly. Indeed, it is not uncommon for employers to view harassment as a compliance issue and move it to the bottom of HR’s “to do” list. The current environment presents a rare opportunity for employers to remind their management of the importance of addressing these issues and ensuring that they are providing a workplace free of sexual and other unlawful harassment. Not only will such comprehensive anti-harassment policies and training prevent harassment incidents at the outset, but they will also provide employers with an affirmative defense under both state and federal law to any legal claims of harassment which may nevertheless arise.
The message to all employers is clear: you ignore workplace harassment at your significant peril. Although harassment law has been settled for some time, many businesses still do not appreciate the importance of addressing these issues proactively. We suggest employers review their anti-harassment policies and practices in light of the current social climate.
Stokes Carmichael & Ernst LLP has represented businesses in employment law – as well as commercial law and collections, business law, and general civil litigation – for over 45 years. SCE provides sound legal advice at a reasonable cost and is experienced in representing employers in a myriad of issues. Both the author and the firm are rated by “AV Preeminent
” by Martindale-Hubbell
, the highest rating given by the legal industry’s premier peer-review rating system for legal ability and general ethical standards. Mr. Ernst has also been continually recognized as one of “Georgia’s Legal Elite,” as a “Georgia Super Lawyer
,” and as a “Top Rated Lawyer
.” If you have any employment law questions regarding your company, please contact Mike Ernst at 404.603.3441 or