If you’re the trustee or administrator of an employee benefit fund with its own staff and you haven’t looked at the issue of sexual harassment, it’s probably time to make sure your fund and its employees are protected.
In the article “Time’s Up for Sexual Harassment and Misconduct: Protecting Fund Employees and the Fund” in the December issue of Benefits Magazine, attorneys Lisa M.Gomez and Melissa S. Woods outline the sexual harassment issues that funds should be sure to address.
Employee benefit funds that are employers should consider how to prevent sexual harassment both in the fund office and at off-site meetings and conferences, Gomez and Woods explain. Funds should look not only at the conduct of their employees but also at the conduct of fund trustees with respect to employees.
To prevent and effectively respond to instances of sexual harassment, the authors recommend taking the following four steps:
Step One: Adopt an Antiharassment Policy
This policy signals to all persons at the fund that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and that respect and dignity in the workplace will be promoted.
Step Two: Implement Effective Training
Training should be conducted annually and should include scenario-specific discussions about how improper conduct might arise in the specific workplace and how it should be addressed.
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Step Three: Take Appropriate Action to Respond to Harassment Claims
When an employee, vendor, client or trustee makes a formal or informal report of misconduct, the fund should take immediate steps to stop the alleged behavior, protect involved parties and begin an investigation. A prompt response yields the best information and evidence and also enhances employer credibility.
Step Four: Insure Against Sexual Harassment Liability
Funds should make sure they have insurance coverage to protect against losses and exposure related to a claim for sexual harassment made against an employee or trustee of the fund. An employment practices liability insurance (EPLI) policy can offer protection against damages as well as defense costs for a clam of sexual harassment.
Funds that take a thoughtful and proactive approach to preventing and addressing sexual misconduct will protect fund employees and the fund as an organization from this complex problem, Gomez and Woods write.
Kathy Bergstrom, CEBS
Senior Editor, Publications, at the International Foundation
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