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Sexual harassment is costly to employers

Missouri employers may want to take a lesson from a particular high-profile sexual harassment case. The mayor of San Diego is named as the defendant in one woman's sexual harassment lawsuit and is facing allegations of improper sexual conduct by more than 12 other women. Although the mayor has denied the claims, he acknowledged that he disrespected and intimidated women and has completed a two-week course of therapy.

The litigation has costly implications for the city. The mayor is asking that the city pay his legal fees because it did not provide sexual harassment training as required by state law. The city says that it will sue him if it has to make a payment in the pending lawsuit. In addition to litigation costs, the city faces loss of morale and productivity.

Only three states currently require employers to conduct regular sexual harassment training; Missouri is not among them. While neither state nor federal law requires an employer in Missouri to provide employees with sexual harassment training, it's a good employment practice to do so. Employees who have been the victims of workplace sexual harassment or subjected to a hostile working environment may use the employer's failure to provide training to show that the employer did not take reasonable action to prevent the misconduct from occurring.

Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination. An employee who has been subjected to unwelcome sexual advances, lewd comments or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature may have a viable legal claim. An employee who is being negatively impacted by sexual harassment in the workplace is advised to report the matter to the employer's human resources department or ethics officer as an initial step. If the situation does not improve or if the employee suffers unlawful retaliation as a result, a qualified employment law attorney may be able to help the employee pursue a legal claim.

Source: The Fiscal Times, "The high cost of Sexual harassment", Beth Braverman, August 22, 2013

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