Protects Your Company

The Risk Grows

You are, no doubt, aware that sexual harassment is illegal. You've probably heard of the staggering monetary damages that have been awarded to employees who bring charges. With the #MeToo movement and seemingly continuous news coverage, the risk grows every day.

Sexual harassment is illegal because it is a form of discrimination outlawed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That act applies to private employers with 15 or more employees. In addition, many states have laws that make companies with fewer than 15 employees liable for sexual harassment.


The foundational component of proving reasonable care is a company policy prohibiting sexual harassment. You can download a free sample policy below (available in PDF format).

Download Policy (PDF)

What is Sexual Harassment?

A practical definition of sexual harassment is: Unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment. The EEOC and the courts recognize two types of sexual harassment.

The first type is Quid Pro Quo – which essentially means, "You do something for me and I'll do something for you." A supervisor requesting sexual favors from a subordinate is an example of Quid Pro Quo. One important note about Quid Pro Quo: If it happens even once, it's a violation and it's serious.

The other type of sexual harassment is Hostile Work Environment. Hostile Work Environment includes any sexually oriented conduct or any sexually oriented atmosphere that is intimidating or offensive to a reasonable person. Generally speaking, for courts to uphold a claim of Hostile Work Environment, there must be a consistent pattern of behavior.


How Do I Protect My Company?

You're responsible to act with reasonable care to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment. If you act with reasonable care, your chances of being hit with a claim go way down. Just as importantly, if you can prove you've acted with reasonable care, you are much less likely to have a claim upheld by the EEOC or lose a case in court. Here are the three key elements of reasonable care:


You must have a policy that strictly prohibits sexual harassment in your company. This policy must provide for an effective mechanism for employees to report sexual harassment. Most importantly, you must adhere to this policy. If you have a policy and don't adhere to it, it could be worse than not having a policy at all. So, behave like your policy says you will behave. And if you have a report of sexual harassment, act immediately.


A policy prohibiting sexual harassment is the foundation of reasonable care. But a policy alone is not enough. You should also provide in-depth training for all employees, and especially, all managers. This training should include a test that ensures all employees understand their responsibilities surrounding sexual harassment.


It's not enough to have a policy and conduct training. You must keep records proving you've exercised reasonable care. That includes documentation that employees are agreed to your policy and that they've successfully completed your training.



A claim of sexual harassment can be devastating to any business. But if you have an effective policy, adhere to that policy; provide training to all your employees; and keep adequate records, you will be able to mount an affirmative defense based on having taken reasonable care.


Why Opus?

Opus Training has been helping businesses protect themselves from claims and lawsuits involving sexual harassment and discrimination since 2001. We've trained well over 1,000,000 employees in thousands of companies over the last 20 years. Opus provides high-quality video training with comprehensive records and reports that contribute significantly to protecting your company.

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