Must Employers Distribute A Sexual Harassment Policy To Employees?
Through their decades of experience representing sexual harassment victims, our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that employers routinely argue that they are not liable for any sexually harassing behavior in the workplace because they maintained a sexual harassment policy prohibiting sexual harassment. Under federal employment discrimination law, employers must exercise reasonable care to prevent any sexually harassing behavior. Courts have recognized that the existence of a sexual harassment policy is a crucial factor in determining whether an employer acted reasonably to prevent sexual harassment.
Courts have also determined, however, that the mere existence of a sexual harassment policy does not establish, standing alone, that an employer acted reasonably to prevent sexual harassment. Rather, in order to establish that it exercised reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment, an employer must also show that it distributed its sexual harassment policy to employees. In the overwhelming majority of cases, employers distribute their sexual harassment policy to employees via an employee handbook and require employees to sign a form affirming that they received a copy of the sexual harassment policy.
In this article, our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Sherman-Harris-Golson v. Forest Park Municipal Authority, 2023 WL 8704736 (W.D. Okla. Dec. 15, 2023) demonstrates that in order to establish that it acted reasonably to prevent sexual harassment, an employer must show that a sexual harassment victim actually received a copy of its sexual harassment policy prohibiting sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment Lawsuit
In that case, a woman named Sherman-Harris-Golson (“Golson”) brough a sexual harassment lawsuit against her former employer, Forest Park Municipal Authority (“Forest Park”), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII protects employees from workplace sexual harassment. To violate Title VII, sexual harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create a hostile working environment. Golson claims that, during her employment with Forest Park, she was sexually harassed by a supervisor in violation of Title VII.
In September 2018, Golson was hired by Forest Park as a reserve police officer. While working at the Forest Park Police Department, Golson claims that she was sexually assaulted by her supervisor on two occasions. Golson alleges that the first incident occurred on January 18, 2019 and the second assault occurred sometime in April 2019. Golson testified in deposition that she did not report the incidents when they happened because the supervisor had threatened to hurt her and her family. In July 2019, Golson reported her allegations of sexual harassment to the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office referred the matter to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (“OSBI”) at the end of July 2019.
Forest Park had a sexual harassment policy prohibiting sexual harassment and advising that any sexual harassment should be reported to the employee’s supervisor, the mayor, or the Board of Trustees. According to Golson, she did not receive a copy of the policy until June or July 2019. The policy was maintained in the “N-Drive” of the police department’s computers, and a physical copy was kept in the reserve office. Golson had used the “N-Drive” while doing background investigations for new applicants in early 2019.
An OSBI investigator interviewed Golson and the supervisor. After the interviews, the investigator presented the matter to an Oklahoma assistant district attorney. In September 2019, the attorney declined to file criminal charges in the case “due to multiple issues with the victim’s allegations and inconsistent statements.” A “Case Closure” report was issued by the OSBI in October 2019, closing the case.
Employers Must Disseminate Policy
Forest Park filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Golson’s sexual harassment claim. In seeking dismissal, Forest Park argued that it was not liable for the alleged sexual harassment because it maintained a sexual harassment policy prohibiting sexual harassment. The trial court denied Forest Park’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Golson has presented sufficient evidence to establish that she was sexually harassed in violation of Title VII to proceed to a jury trial.
In denying Forest Park’s motion for dismissal, the trial court explained that “while it is undisputed that Forest Park had a sexual harassment policy, the employer must also disseminate the policy.” “Golson,” the trial court pointed out, “has submitted evidence that she did not receive the policy until June or July of 2019.” “Although the record contains evidence that a physical copy of the policy was kept in the reserve office and was also maintained on the “N-Drive” of the police department’s computer,” the trial court also pointed out, “there is no evidence to demonstrate that Golson was aware of the existence of the written policy document in the reserve office or on the “N-Drive.” Because there was no evidence that Forest Park had provided its sexual harassment policy to Golson, the trial court concluded that Forest Park has failed to demonstrate that it exercised reasonable care to prevent the alleged sexual harassment.
Marion County Sexual Harassment Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our sexual harassment attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of sexual harassment victims. If you have been sexually harassed at work or have questions about an employer’s obligation to provide you with a sexual harassment policy prohibiting sexual harassment, please contact our office for a free consultation with our sexual harassment lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes sexual harassment cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.