If you’ve followed the news recently, you’ve noticed that sexual harassment in the workplace is getting a lot of press. This makes it a good time to ensure that your business is taking sufficient steps to avoid, discourage or, if necessary, appropriately address and eliminate discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Many employees, even individuals in high-level positions, struggle with understanding the difference between conduct that’s appropriate in the workplace and conduct that’s not. We’re frequently asked this question:

When does seemingly harmless banter escalate into something actionable?

This can be troubling for employers, because each offensive act (whether a comment, gesture, suggestion, or otherwise) can accumulate over time and create a negative workplace for employees. If an act is particularly offensive or the acts persist repeatedly in the workplace, they can create a so-called hostile work environment and provide grounds for a claim under New York and federal law.

To avoid this, employers should have policies in place to promote a work environment that’s not discriminatory or offensive. Many employers find it effective to offer training to educate employees about the type of conduct that’s appropriate and – importantly – what they should avoid.

Do you have a process that encourages employees to complain if they feel harassed or discriminated against? Do you provide guidelines or training about appropriate conduct in the workplace? These are common steps taken by employers to promote a neutral workplace and avoid the risk of liability for discrimination and harassment.

If you have concerns about your workplace, whether there’s a claim that’s been file or you’re wisely looking to be proactive, our team is ready and able to assist.