Workplace sexual harassment has both hidden and overt costs for both businesses and harassment victims. While most workplaces have policies in place to prevent sexual harassment from occurring on the job, it remains a pervasive problem at companies across New Jersey and the U.S. The costs of sexual harassment should encourage businesses to do more to end this type of illegal conduct and prevent it from occurring in the future when it does occur. Here is some information about the costs of sexual harassment in the workplace from the employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
When an employee files a sexual harassment case against an employer, the employer will have to pay attorney’s fees and other related costs. If the employee succeeds in the lawsuit, the employer might be ordered to pay damages, including front and back pay and other compensatory damages. Losing employers may also be ordered to pay the attorney’s fees of a prevailing plaintiff. In addition to these costs, employers might also be ordered to pay punitive damages, potentially leading to large verdicts in favor of employees.
When an employer has to deal with sexual harassment claims, its employees must spend time dealing with them. The cost of the time spent by employees handling sexual harassment claims can quickly add up since they cannot spend that time concentrating on other job duties. In addition to the salary expenses from every hour spent on sexual harassment claims, there are also opportunity costs involved since the employees handling the claims cannot spend that time in more valuable ways.
Even if a sexual harassment claim is eventually dismissed, dealing with the claim can take time and cause stress. Each charge must be fully investigated, reviewed, managed, and appropriately responded to regardless of whether or not it is ultimately determined to be valid. Everyone involved in a sexual harassment claim can feel drained and be distracted from their other work.
Employee turnover costs
Every time an employee leaves a company, the turnover costs can be as much as 33% of his or her former annual salary. This is because the company will have to go through the hiring process, including writing a job description, advertising on job boards, recruiting candidates, reviewing resumes and applications, scheduling and conducting interviews, completing pre-employment background checks, and choosing a candidate for the position. Once an applicant is hired, he or she will have to be trained, and it might take several months before a new hire becomes fully productive in his or her job. The loss of seasoned employees also causes a loss of institutional knowledge.
In addition to the loss of people who have been harassed, other employees might also abruptly quit when an employer allows sexually harassing conduct to thrive. In most cases, multiple people will be aware of the harassment and experience discomfort about what’s happening and how they should respond. Allowing sexual harassment to continue in a workplace can negatively impact employee morale and increase overall turnover rates.
Workplace sexual harassment can seriously impede a victim’s ability to perform the tasks of his or her job and can also distract others away from their own jobs. When people are harassed at work, it is difficult for them to be productive in their jobs. In most cases, sexual harassment will continue for some time before a victim will come forward to complain about it. During that time, the victim will likely undergo significant distress and have difficulty concentrating on his or her job. Many employees do not want to make waves and might not report problematic workplace behavior because of a fear of retaliation. This can result in harassment continuing for months, causing a drop in productivity before it is addressed.
Costs related to other types of poor behavior
Sexual harassment in the workplace rarely occurs in a vacuum. In most cases, other types of problematic behavior might also occur at the same time and cause lost productivity and poor retention rates. Some of these types of problematic behaviors might include workplace bullying, belittling, being rude, and yelling. Many harassers in the workplace start by behaving badly in other ways before they progress to sexual harassment. When an employer fails to address these types of behaviors, they might end up having to deal with sexual harassment or discrimination claims later.
Employee training programs are essential for addressing these and other types of workplace conduct. Establishing clear policies about the types of behavior that are prohibited in a workplace and the consequences for behaving in those sorts of ways might help employees to understand what is appropriate and what they can do when they are targeted by others at work.
Victims of sexual harassment also suffer losses as a result of this type of illegal workplace conduct. Victims might suffer negative impacts on their mental and physical health, experience fewer opportunities for advancement, and might face the specter of job loss and unemployment.
How employers should handle reports of sexual harassment
Employers should be careful when they receive reports of sexual harassment from employees. Every complaint should be treated seriously and thoroughly investigated. If an allegation is substantiated, the employer should take proactive steps to address the harasser’s behavior and to put an end to it, up to and including potentially terminating him or her. An employer should never retaliate against an employee for complaining about sexual harassment even if the complaint is not substantiated. Retaliating against an employee for filing a complaint can result in additional liability for retaliation.
Consult with experienced employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler
Despite being illegal, sexual harassment continues to flourish in many workplaces in New Jersey. Employees who believe that they are being targeted for sexual harassment should follow their companies’ procedures for reporting it internally. If the company fails to investigate or retaliates against the employee, he or she should contact the attorneys at Swartz Swidler at (856) 685-7420 to explore their legal remedies.