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Sexual harassment claims currently are big news because prominent film makers, actors, television personalities, executives and United States legislators have been identified as serial harassers. Under pressure, some alleged harassers have confessed, while others have at least acknowledged that their actions were inappropriate. We may be witnessing a sea change in exposing harassers and holding them accountable. Even the United States Congress has recognized the seriousness and pervasiveness of the problem by requiring sexual harassment training of its members and employees.

We have been advocating all forms of harassment training for decades because preventing harassment is the right thing to do and makes excellent business sense. Training can help avoid harassment and its adverse effects on employee morale and productivity. Training also can help avoid claims and the costs of defending those claims. Some states (not Missouri and not Illinois for private sector employers) are requiring sexual harassment training by certain employers. So, if your organization has not done so within the last two years, we strongly recommend that it promptly require that all employees, not just supervisory employees, attend harassment training. This training should include not only the prohibition on sexual harassment, but also harassment based on any protected class, such as race, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability. The training should be documented.

We will be pleased to provide, or assist your organization in providing, that training. Regardless of whether we are involved, training should include the most current changes and interpretations in the law regarding harassment. Clearly an unintended consequence of the alleged serial harassers’ actions is a reminder and great opportunity to make sure your organization is doing the right (and necessary) thing!

The foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation and should not be relied on as such.  Please contact one of our labor and employment lawyers if you have any questions. 

This update was prepared by Charles S. Elbert and Erin M. Leach.