West Virginia Banker - Spring 2018

www.wvbankers.org 8 West Virginia Banker with respect and are not forced to work in a hostile environment. These policies define prohibited conduct, including discrimination and harassment that create a hostile work environment. They also specify how and where to file a complaint, guarantee a fair and impartial investigation, and address confidentiality. Failure to follow your policy can result in employer liability, even when there would have been no finding of harass- ment had it been properly investigated. As you have likely seen in the news, while the perpetrator may be held responsible, the employer may be held liable for failure to properly investigate the allegations. Having a clear and concise policy that adequately lays out investigative procedures will make it easier for the employer to properly investigate the allegation. A lthough eliminating harassment in the workplace has been an issue for many years, the viral #MeToo movement of 2017 brought much needed attention to this pervasive problem, as well as a call for change. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that at least 54% of women have experienced unwanted and inappropri- ate sexual advances in the workplace. Harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment, not only takes a toll on the victim, but also on the employ- er. In 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recovered $164.5 million dollars for employees who experienced workplace harassment. Decreased productivity, increased turnover and reputational harm – all of which impact a company’s bottom line –also can be the result of workplace harassment. Unfortunately, most workplace harass- ment goes unreported due to fears of disbelief, blame, or social or professional retaliation. When harassment is reported, oftentimes it is the investigative process, or lack thereof, that creates liability for the employer. Having a clear and concise method for conducting investigations will make it easier to properly investigate complaints, prevent future complaints and avoid potential liability. Here are some helpful Dos and Don’ts when it comes to investigating work- place harassment: DO follow your policy. Federal, state and local anti-discrimina- tion and harassment laws and regula- tions require employers to have a policy in place that focuses on maintaining an environment where people are treated By Kayla Cook and Michael Cardi, Bowles Rice LLP Dos and Don’ts of Investigating Workplace Harassment

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