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Companies Must Circulate Sexual-Harassment Policies

January 29, 2018
 
The January AIM Human Resource Roundtables focused on the challenge of identifying, responding to and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The key law on the topic is the Massachusetts sexual-harassment law, which turns 22 this year. 
 
Policy
 
Every employer with six or more employees must have - and issue to every employee at the time of hire and to all employees annually - a copy of the company sexual-harassment policy. Employers unsure of the breadth or thoroughness of their policy should review the sexual harassment model policy on the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination website (www.mass.gov/mcad) and use it as a basis for updating their policy.
 
One key aspect of the policy is the contact person with whom an employee may file an official compliant. While the law requires only one name to be included in the policy, the MCAD guidance on sexual harassment recommends that employers include two names, one male and one female, along with the necessary contact information.   
 
The law does not specify a time frame during which a company may have six or more employees. A best practice would be that if you have six or more employees during the year, adopt and issue the policy.
 
Nothing limits an employer’s ability to adopt and issue a policy if the company has fewer than six employees. 
 
Don’t rely on the sexual-harassment policy in your handbook to suffice for the annual reissuing unless you reissue your handbook every year. Assuming you do not, the law calls for an individual written copy to be issued to employees every year. Best practice would be to have each employee receive a copy and sign for it to demonstrate receipt. For remote employees, have the employee provide you with an email confirming receipt of the policy. 
 
While issuing the policy is not a shield against a harassment lawsuit, it may be a factor in how the case plays out at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). 
 
Training 
 
The law encourages employers to train their employees, including managers and supervisors, on their rights and responsibilities under the law. Given the individual liability of supervisors under the law for failure to act in response to a report of harassment, this training is critical in making sure your supervisors handle the claim properly.  
 
The MCAD Web site also includes a lengthy guideline on compliance with the sexual-harassment law. 
 
AIM helps companies train employees and managers on how to minimize the risk of sexual harassment incidents in the workplace. If you would like to know more about our services in this area please contact Beth Yohai at 617-488-8335. 
 
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