HUNTINGTON – A Huntington attorney says the spotlight on sexual harassment or assault accusations suggests that “now is a good time for companies to examine whether they are providing a safe workplace for their employees.”
“Every week seems to bring with it another news story about a prominent man who has been accused of sexual harassment or assault,” said Steven L. Snyder, senior counsel at Jenkins Fenstermaker PLLC and a presenter at the firm’s Jan. 24 seminar entitled He Said/She Sued: The Realities of Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace. “With the increased press attention, there is an increased risk of litigation.”
As a result, Snyder said now is a good time for companies to ask themselves if they have the right policies and training, if they have an effective system for reporting and investigating harassment allegations, whether they are consistent in their discipline and whether they have they paid attention to the risk factors for harassment.
“It is always important for companies to ensure that they are maintaining a safe workplace for all of their employees,” Snyder said. “There may be an increased risk of litigation today, given the recent news stories, but the risk of sexual harassment will remain long after the press has switched its attention to another topic. Now is a good time for companies to take a critical look at their workplaces – and so is tomorrow, next year and the one thereafter.”
Snyder said problems such as sexual harassment in the workplace are not confined to one state or region, and illegal discrimination in the workplace goes beyond sexual harassment to also include discrimination based on race, age, disability, national origin, religion and other forms.
“Companies need to ensure that they have an effective system for combating all forms of discrimination in their workplace,” Snyder said.
In addition, Snyder warned that companies should “not assume that a lack of complaints means a lack of sexual harassment.”
“Numerous surveys have shown that the majority of victims do not report sexual harassment,” he said. “Victims fear retaliation – they worry that they will be labeled troublemakers, that their careers will suffer, and even that they will lose their jobs.”
Snyder said this fear of retaliation means that “companies must do more than simply investigate the complaints that do come in – companies must have a leadership that is committed to maintaining a safe and civil workplace and this commitment must be reflected in policies, training, investigations and consistent discipline.”
Snyder said these are all topics that were addressed at the seminar sponsored by Jenkins Fenstermaker and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to Snyder, Jenkins Fenstermaker said in a news release that the presenters at the seminar included Michael A. Frye, Nathanial A. Kuratomi, Gary A. Matthews and Sarah A. Walling.