Elk Valley Times

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Workplace harassment

Employers have a responsibility to prevent and correct illegal harassment in the workplace, and employees have a shared responsibility to promptly report inappropriate conduct.

Workplace harassment on the basis of an immutable characteristic – an aspect of the person not capable or susceptible to change (such as sex, race or disability) – is prohibited under many laws, which have been enacted to prohibit harassment as a form of discrimination. These laws were not intended to destroy a company, or ruin a person’s career, reputation or relationship, but rather, to protect the employee from the harm that may result.

A company’s quick action to terminate those accused may seem commendable, but employers are urged to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation before taking appropriate action to end the harassing conduct. At the same time, neither should employers turn a blind eye to a known problem, hastily taking action only before it becomes news.

Employers must have effective policies and procedures for employees to report complaints, and employees should follow those, so that the employer has an opportunity to take corrective action. However, if an employee has valid fears about making a workplace complaint, he or she should seek the guidance of legal counsel.

Understandably, some may hesitate to step forward with complaints, but what interest is served by waiting lengthy periods of time before alerting anyone to inappropriate conduct? Many allegations could arguably be time-barred in Tennessee courts, where under Title VII, for example, claims must generally be filed within 300 days of the alleged harm.

“The law aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights.”

Jonathan C. Brown, Attorney at Law
101 Main Ave. S., Fayetteville, Tenn.