Headlines about Sexual Harassment in Business and Politics are a Call to Action for Massachusetts Employers to Train their Staffs

Recent accusations of sexual harassment by powerful men in business and politics are shining a bright light on the need for Massachusetts businesses to be vigilant about conduct in their work places lest they face embarrassing and costly allegations of misconduct. Sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training based on a strong policy can be the antidote.

Kushner Sanders Ravinal LLP offers a broad array of Massachusetts sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training options. Training classes for employees and managers are specially tailored to meet client needs. Formal sessions include interactive materials aimed at maximizing the learning and retention process in this difficult but critically important area of discrimination law. The firm also provides informal sessions with individual decisions makers. We offer a special, one-hour luncheon or breakfast training course where employment counsel will appear at the job site and answer employment related questions and/or provide generalized training to fit client needs.

The lessons learned by employees and managers in sexual harassment, anti-discrimination and other types of training programs often prove to be invaluable. Understanding basic concepts of Massachusetts and federal discrimination and harassment laws helps avoid costly and time-consuming lawsuits. It informs employees what they can and cannot say on the job, how they should and should not act, and what to do if they witness potentially discriminatory or harassing conduct. Training teaches managers these same concepts, plus tells them what to look out for in the workplace and impresses upon them their special duties to avoid improper conduct and correct transgressions of rules by others. Managers need to understand that they can be held personally liable for sexual harassment, discrimination, and other violations of employment laws, even when they merely fail to correct a legal problem. And when a manager participates in or looks the other way concerning harassment or discrimination, his employer is on the hook for any resulting damages. Under Massachusetts law, supervisors are considered employers for discrimination and harassment purposes, so a company cannot escape liability for damages by claiming it was unaware of misconduct that its manager either knew about or was engaged in. Managers are the company for liability purposes under anti-discrimination laws.

There are other reasons that regular training for managers and other employees makes good business sense. One is that the Massachusetts sexual harassment policy statute strongly encourages training for managers. As a result, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) expects supervisors to have a working knowledge of discrimination and harassment issues. When they don’t, enhanced damages after an MCAD trial are real possibilities. This reality dovetails into perhaps the biggest reason training makes sense: the high cost of defending lawsuits and the substantial damages risks they present. Cases at the MCAD can drag out for years, and damage awards can be substantial. All include 12% annual interest that can really add up, since cases commonly take five years or more to litigate. Employers must both pay their own lawyers to defend them and, when they lose, pay the lawyers for the opposing party. Given all this, the value of reducing risk in this area is clear. With good training and the knowledge-based, no-nonsense sensibility it instills in the workplace, lawsuits can be minimized. Without it, employees and managers alike can unwittingly overstep legal boundary lines and cause their employers to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend themselves even before a judgment is rendered either for or against them.

Kushner Sanders Ravinal’s employment law department is headed by Attorney Jack Merrill, an experienced employment specialist who is MCAD-certified to present both anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training courses. Mr. Merrill has presented numerous training courses to area employers and, to date, none have been hit with new discrimination or harassment lawsuits. To discuss the different types of training the firm can provide, contact Mr. Merrill. And feel free to take a look at our outlines in the Employment Law Articles section of our website (immediately above to the left).

By Attorney Jack K. Merrill – Needham, MA Employment Lawyer