As more entities recognize the necessity of protecting victims of sexual harassment, it is crucial that the policies designed to protect individuals from sexual harassment are accessible to all individuals and provide a supportive means to address sexual harassment. This necessity is especially applicable to government bodies who are often leading examples of how to address potential legal violations and ensure that the law is upheld while addressing them.
Changes to Harassment Investigations
In 2021, the Minnesota Senate recognized that its policies regarding sexual harassment failed to clearly identify the best means to investigate harassment claims and ensure fairness to the victim of harassment. Even though the Senate had recently updated its policy in 2019, the reports it received in 2020 and the resulting inadequacies in the subsequent investigation clearly indicated that the policies needed improvement. As a result of these shortcomings, various complaints arose about the handling of the 2020 reports of sexual harassment.
As a model of good faith and genuine concern, the Minnesota Senate stepped up to review its policies and update them so as to enhance fairness and ensure protection for those involved in harassment complaints. A special committee spent a year reviewing the policy, consulting with outside resources, and developing new language to enhance the harassment policy. The Senate reiterated the goal of ensuring that it maintained a respectful work environment and a safe space for individuals to make reports if they had concerns.
The Senate Committee ultimately recommended various changes to streamline the reporting process and ensure that all parties involved were protected. Among other things, the changes included:
- Taking the burden off of complainants and the accused to identify a method to resolve the situation;
- Expanding rules for the appeal process and ensuring that it be completed within 60 days unless granted an extension of time; and
- Identifying a clearer chain of command for complaints involving third parties.
These improvements ensure a smoother and more timely process for everyone involved. Given the especially sensitive nature of harassment complaints, it is crucial that the process is clearly defined and ensures a consistent procedure that is not susceptible to shortcomings.
Protecting Public and Private Employees
The actions by the Minnesota Senate are also notable because they reflect a sense of accountability and a true desire to protect all employees. Other public employers, as well as private employers, must take note that detailed policies help ensure safety and consistency for their employees. Further, when their policies have shortcomings, employers must be open and willing to invest the time and effort to improve their policies.
If you feel that you have been subject to harassment (sexual or other) in your workplace, please do not hesitate to reach out to Schaefer Halleen, LLC. Our attorneys specialize in navigating the difficult communications and nature of workplace harassment claims, and we are eager to assist you in these sensitive matters.