Sexual harassment in the workplace is the legal responsibility of the employee.
A supervisor can be held responsible or liable for sexual harassment whether the organization is aware of the situation or not.
In Burlington Industries Inc. vs Ellerth and Faragher Vs City of Boca Raton, the Supreme Court made clear the employers are subject to vicarious liability for unlawful harassment by supervisors. The standard of liability set forth in these decisions is premised on two principles. The first is that an employer is responsible for the acts of its supervisors, and secondly employers should be encouraged to prevent harassment and employee should be encouraged to avoid or limit the harm from harassment.
A company needs to adopt a clear sexual harassment policy if the company wants to defend itself effectively against sexual harassment suits. The policy should be put in writing. If a company has an informal policy that company is more than likely going to have to go to trial should a sexual harassment suit arise.
Preparing well with anti harassment policy can keep a company out of the courts. However even if it does not, it can provide a shield against ruinous awards for punitive damages.
It is very important for companies to establish a clear sexual harassment policy and include it in the employee handbook or communicate it during orientation of new employees. .
The company should set out a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints so that employee who is sexually harassed feels free to complain to someone as soon as they feel threatened by sexual harassment.
A company has to be very careful of the kind of jokes, games, gimmicks and languages that its employees uses because what can be deemed ok for one employee another employee might find it very offensive, especially a new employee. An employer should assume a strict code of conduct, to avoid any kind of lawsuit.