Are Businesses Liable For Workplace Harassment?

Whether you are forming a new company or have been operating a business for some time, it is vital to reflect on workplace policies addressing harassment. Harassment can come in many forms from both high- and lower-level employees, customers, and third-party business relationships.

Harassment falls under the category of discriminatory acts and is strictly forbidden. But is a business responsible for correcting these acts when committed within a business structure? Yes, a company is responsible for the safety of its employees, and working with a knowledgeable Phoenix business law attorney is essential to ensure your business has appropriate guidelines to effectively manage and stamp out any form of unsolicited behavior in the workplace.

Understanding What Constitutes Harassment in Arizona

Harassment in Arizona is defined as an act that is knowingly and repeatedly committed by one person against another person to harass or cause distress, annoyance, humiliation, or alarm.

Harassment, a form of discrimination, is one of the most common lawsuits filed against businesses and is often referred to by the courts in two ways, including quid pro quo, meaning this for that and a hostile work environment. Any form of harassment, when not immediately snuffed out, can not only subject the harasser to lawsuits but can incur legal action for an employer who fails to address the issue or chooses to look the other way.

Addressing Harassment in the Workplace

One of the most effective ways to protect valued employees and a business is by establishing a compliance program setting a standard of expected behavior for employees so there is no doubt that harassment will not be tolerated. Regardless of whether an employee complains about a behavior, once a supervisor, manager, or business owner becomes aware of an inappropriate behavior, action must be taken. Establishing a program that includes the following information is essential and can be reviewed from a legal perspective with an Arizona business litigation attorney in Phoenix.

  • Written guidelines defining harassment and prohibiting the behaviors against protected categories and establish anti-retaliation policies to protect employees who file a complaint
  • Appropriate training for individuals in positions of leadership explaining expected compliance with the program and how to manage reports of harassment adequately
  • Establish reporting guidelines for incidents of harassment to include a minimum of two individuals to address the incident should one of the responding parties in charge be responsible for harassment
  • Provide a timely response which includes a thorough investigation and feedback to the individual filing the complaint
  • A standard course of discipline for individuals committing harassing behaviors and for any persons responsible for responding to the incidents but failing to do so

While options for addressing harassment from a third party, such as a vendor or client, may seem limited, responsible business owners can discontinue business with these parties or contact the appropriate managers within a company to report their employee’s behavior.

Establish Policies Against Harassment in the Arizona Workplace Today

Business owners and managers are responsible for providing a harassment-free workplace for employees. Ignoring or overlooking inappropriate behavior against another person can expose a business to lawsuits and unwanted public attention. There is help for businesses looking to establish sound policies and for employees who have been denied protection against harassment.

William D. Black has offered unwavering guidance and innovative direction to Phoenix business owners for decades. The Law Offices of William D. Black have become a trusted source in helping Arizona businesses chart a course for success. Contact our offices today to schedule a free evaluation for your business needs.