This is a recurring workplace issue that continues to surprise us. We would think after all the sex harassment publicity it would not be a Top 10 employment and labor law issue.
As a small/medium business owner, you have a target on your back. But even if you behave yourself, your supervisors and other employees can still create legal liability for you.
You (your company) will be liable for unlawful harassment if one of your employees is harassed by their coworker and you, or one of your supervisors or managers, knew or should have known about the harassing behavior and did nothing to stop it.
If one of your supervisors or managers harasses a subordinate, you don’t even have to know about it to be liable. If the supervisor or manager did it, your company will be liable even if you had no idea. It’s called “strict liability.”
Having legally vetted prohibited harassment policies in place, enforcing them and training are key to minimizing your risk. If a claim of unlawful harassment is made, a prompt, thorough and unbiased investigation must be conducted and appropriate corrective action taken.