By:  Amy Epstein Gluck

Remember I just told you here that workplace harassment claims increased markedly in the last year? Well, some financial data is in.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it obtained approximately $505 million for nearly 68,000 victims of discrimination in the workplace, broken down as follows:

  • $354 million through mediation, conciliation, and settlements;
  • $53.5 million through litigation; and
  • $98.6 million for federal employees and applicants in hearings and appeals.

That is…a LOT of money.

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The message to employers is simple and brief today:

  • Trained, knowledgeable human resources (HR) departments take complaints of harassment seriously—most call employment counsel (ahem!) to confirm that they are following applicable law.
  • Good HR folks investigate each matter thoroughly and promptly, including interviewing the alleged perpetrator, victim, and any potential witnesses.
  • Effective HR recommends any corrections and/or discipline to ensure that the person who reported discrimination or harassment does not suffer retaliation for reporting.
  • Of course, as I’ve repeated, HR will document the aforementioned process extensively.

Sufficient documentation is everything. Why? Because you, as the employer, want a written record of the steps your company took to investigate allegations of unlawful harassment in case despite your best efforts and intentions, an employee files a claim with the EEOC.

Employers: HR is there for you! It’s their job to keep you out of trouble with the EEOC, an agency that is not. playing. anymore.  As these numbers show, the risk of not being proactive can be steep.