Do you know best practices when it comes to avoiding sexual harassment complaints? The Grace Hill training tip of the week focuses on 5 ways to protect your applicants, residents and employees from sexual harassment.
Recent high-profile sexual harassment allegations have highlighted the need for increased sexual harassment training, education, and awareness.
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects individuals against discrimination because of sex. Courts have consistently recognized sexual harassment as a form of discrimination that violates the FHA. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) published a final rule, formalizing legal standards under the FHA for sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in housing.
HUD commentary on this rule noted that sexual harassment may violate a variety of provisions of the Fair Housing Act.
How to protect your applicants, residents, and employees from harassment
No. 1 – Have strong written policies
The FHA, Title VII, and most state and local laws require that you have a written sexual harassment policy. The precise contents of the policy vary greatly depending upon your jurisdiction. However, most require that you at least prohibit sexual harassment, adopt a comprehensive complaint process that allows for multiple channels of reporting, prohibit retaliation against those who file complaints, provide precise investigation procedures, and provide confidentiality (to the extent possible).
No. 2 – Provide meaningful training
Demonstrating that your employees and managers have been trained is one of the best ways to show compliance with sexual harassment laws. The frequency and detail of the training will depend greatly upon your particular jurisdiction
No. 3 – Conduct thorough investigations
If a sexual harassment allegation is lodged against someone within your organization, the law requires that the company conduct a thorough, good-faith investigation. This typically would include interviewing and getting statements from all parties involved, including talking with other residents or employees to see if they have ever witnessed similar behavior.
No. 4 – Discipline offenders
The company that overlooks sexual harassment and continues to employ a harasser risks great liability in the future. If a harassment victim can prove that the company knew of previous allegations and failed to take steps to address the issue and stop the behavior, then the company could find itself subject to legal penalties. In the current environment, HUD, the DOJ, and juries will likely not have sympathy for organizations that overlook harassing behavior.
No. 5 – Consult an attorney early
It is never too early in the process to consult an attorney or consultant to help guide you through the process.
Many have argued that companies are not doing enough to proactively address the issue of sexual harassment, and the potential cost for property managers is high. Having a strong anti-harassment is important, but the implementation is important too. It is best to demonstrate good-faith compliance with the sexual harassment laws through a comprehensive policy of written guidance, thorough training, and effective response.
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About the author:
Ellen Clark is the Director of Assessment at Grace Hill. Her work has spanned the entire learner lifecycle, from elementary school through professional education. She spent over 10 years working with K12 Inc.’s network of online charter schools – measuring learning, developing learning improvement plans using evidence-based strategies, and conducting learning studies. Later, at Kaplan Inc., she worked in the vocational education and job training divisions, improving online, blended and face-to-face training programs, and working directly with business leadership and trainers to improve learner outcomes and job performance. Ellen lives and works in Maryland, where she was born and raised.
About Grace Hill
For nearly two decades, Grace Hill has been developing best-in-class online training courseware and administration solely for the Property Management Industry, designed to help people, teams and companies improve performance and reduce risk.