Do You Have a $5.3 Million Budget for Sexual Harassment Claims?

Thanks to our state’s Freedom of Information Law (also known as FOIL), lately the local press has been peeling back the layers of the cost to settle sexual harassment claims made against state workers over a four-year period to the tune of $5.3 million.  In no particular order, these settled claims totaling $5.3 million include allegations of:

  • Inappropriate touching / groping
  • Inappropriate comments and actions
  • Requests for dates
  • Repeated retaliation against those who filed sexual harassment complaints.

The state worker targets of these settled claims come from all organizational levels and backgrounds, including but not limited to elected officials, legislature staffers, managers and prison guards.

No matter how large the organization is, $5.3 million is a hefty chunk of change in unplanned expenditures to pay out.  And the salt in the financial wound is not only that the $5.3 million is funded by taxpayers, but is also FOILable, e.g. discoverable to the general public.  Not the reputational / financial data that any organization wants blasted in the news.

If you don’t have $5.3 million budgeted for sexual harassment claims (as well as the additional funds that would be needed to manage the negative publicity should the claims become public and featured in the press), do you follow the advice of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to employers to best prevent sexual harassment?

“Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring.

  • They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
  • They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees; and
  • By establishing an effective complaint or grievance process, and;
  • Taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.”

The cost (payroll, subject-matter expertise, etc.) to train your employees, managers and executives as well as to set up the proper expectations, policies, due-process complaint and investigative infrastructure in your organization to prevent sexual harassment can be as little as .0005% of a potential $5.3 million budget for sexual harassment settlement claims.  Sounds like a cost-savings home-run to the bottom line to me.

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