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Strategies for employers to reduce discrimination and harassment

The stream of headlines about high-profile people and celebrities accused of sexual harassment suggests that the misconduct could be widespread at workplaces in California. These accusations about famous people typically included employers who turned a blind eye to ongoing harassment. This highlights the need for companies to foster a culture that discourages harassment and discrimination and promptly addresses allegations.

Organizations should adopt a three-point strategy to protect workers' legal rights. Employers need to develop written anti-discrimination policies that define procedures for employees to report problems. Companies must take a proactive approach to preventing the problem by training staff on the policy. This effort includes continual training for supervisors and upper management so that they recognize harassment and know how to respond to it. The final step involves informing everyone on staff of the laws prohibiting mistreatment of employees.

A well-informed staff will be aware of legal rights and create a culture that promotes fair treatment of all parties and accountability for harassers. An effective workplace culture will communicate to the employees that they should report harassment as soon as possible so that the employer can investigate the allegations.

Although the law stands on the side of people mistreated because of their sex, race, age, religion or national origin, too often employers take little to no action when an employee comes forward with a sexual harassment complaint. A person who believes that management will not take appropriate actions could discuss the problem with an attorney. After learning the details of the case, an attorney could identify the laws broken by the harasser and the employer. Information about requests for sexual favors, lewd conduct or retaliation for complaints could be assembled for a lawsuit. An attorney could manage the litigation and provide advice as the person pursues a settlement.

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