Late last year, a long-time television journalist was accused of sexual harassment by several women who had worked for him. Management at CBS knew for years about at least one allegation of a female employee that had been sexually harassed. At the time, the victim reported a kissing incident involving the harasser to a producer. The victim asked the producer not to tell the human resources department and he agreed not to report it.
A CBS spokesperson said recently that the producer was acting within the scope the company’s policy at the time and that the employee in question was satisfied with the result. The accused harasser denies the incident ever happened.
There are no federal laws that require victims, confidants, or witnesses to report instances of harassment on the job. However, if a supervisor either directly witnesses an incident of harassment or is told of one, courts have found that he or she has a duty to act on it. Failure to act would expose the employer to a lawsuit.
Courts have also found that if a supervisor is the harasser, then regardless of whether the victim or anyone else reports the harassment, the employer can be held accountable. If the CBS kissing incident happened today, inaction by the producer would be grounds for taking CBS to court. If the accused sexually harassed any member of his staff, that would also be grounds for a case.
Workplace Sexual Harassment Policies
Companies are not required to adopt a sexual harassment policy. However, most companies do have one. It often includes training to recognize sexual harassment and instructions on how to respond if it happens. Many of these policies have a mandatory reporting requirement where any employee who is aware of harassment must inform management.
Mandatory reporting poses an interesting dilemma. If a witness sees another employee being harassed, especially if the harasser is a supervisor, then the witness is likely to fear retaliation. Although such retaliation is illegal, it is quite common.
Failure to Report
Employers can use a sexual harassment policy to defend against claims brought against the company. They can try to show that they took reasonable action to prevent harassment and promptly end any reported claims. If an employer has a sexual harassment policy that includes a mandatory reporting requirement, then they can use the failure to report as a defense against a claim.
Thanks to the #MeToo movement, victims who have suffered in silence are finding the courage to speak the truth and demand justice. Sadly, many of the victims only felt safe enough to speak out after they left the employer where the harassment took place. Often, this is long after the statute of limitations has passed.
Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Victims of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
If you have been or are being sexually harassed at work, the Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. can help. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case in confidence. We can be reached at 215-569-1999 or you can complete our online contact form. We are in Philadelphia, and we proudly serve clients throughout the surrounding areas, including Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.