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Employers must prepare for sex harassment claims

Documented policies essential
Posted at 8:09 PM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 22:09:24-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men keep pouring in.
Russell Simmons -- the founder of hip-hop label "Def Jam Recordings" -- has stepped down after being accused of sexually assaulting a woman.

This -- as former Today Show anchor Matt Lauer is apologizing for his allegations of misconduct and Minnesota Senator Al Franken is facing new accusations.

But how should companies respond when someone claims sexual harassment----and the claim is against one of the most important people in the company?

KGUN9 News talked to an expert in employment law.

The list of powerful men shamed from their jobs for shameful acts just keeps getting longer.

Attorney Ivelisse Bonilla says, “Sexual harassment is about power.  Usually individuals in positions of power take advantage of that power and the sexual harassment is usually against individuals that do not have power."
Bonilla is a partner with Awerkamp and Bonilla, a firm that specializes in employment law.  She says a harassment victim trying to win a lawsuit has a tough challenge to prove, but a company can fire someone if it's convinced they violated the company policy against sexual harassment.
That's why smart companies prove they trained workers sexual harassment is wrong.

Bonilla says, “The company needs to train its employees and the company needs to give a policy to the employee to look, review and sign."
But these powerful men, had their power because they were valuable money-makers for their companies.
Bonilla says companies need to look past that, as they decide who to believe.

"In some cases the person that was involved in the conduct says, 'you know, usually, it's not exactly as the person alleging is saying but I did do some of it."
Now she says these high profile firings show companies are willing to punish abusers no matter how much power they hold and she's hearing from more employers who want to be sure they've done all they can to be sure employees know there's no tolerance for bad behavior.
“The rules have always been there.  We just need to enforce what is the law."