How Much $ Can Your Business Save By Training Managers & Employees on Preventing Workplace Harassment and Retaliation? Literally, Millions of Dollars

$3.5 million, to be exact. Last year, a federal court for the District of Puerto Rico vacated a jury’s $3.5 million punitive damages award against an employer in a retaliatory harassment jury trial last year (after complaining of sex harassment) because the employer had shown it acted in “good faith” by: 1) providing its employee handbook containing a policy prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation to new hires and publishing the handbook annually; 2) annually providing training to its employees on its workplace policies; 2) demonstrating that it had an effective complaint procedure to address complaints of harassment and retaliation by conducting a thorough investigation of such complaints. See https://noticiasmicrojuris.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/2015usdc923850533.pdf

Other employers may want to take note of the importance in acting in good faith in being compliant with employment laws. If only an agricultural employer had done so, it might have saved itself from $17.4 million in damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit last year (albeit some of the damages may be reduced because of statutory caps). See http://eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-10-15.cfm

Recommendations: Conduct trainings at least annually for managers and employees on your workplace policies, particularly, the policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation and the complaint procedure. Ensure that your complaint procedure “has teeth,” meaning that investigations of such complaints–whether handled internally or handled externally by an independent investigator like an employment attorney– are done promptly and thoroughly. As Ben Franklin wisely said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

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