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More companies trying to quietly settle sexual harassment claims

Earlier this week, we wrote about the damaging physical and psychological effects women can suffer as a result of sexual harassment in the workplace. Sadly, sexual harassment is still a frequent problem for both women and men in Broward County and across Florida.

Despite laws and the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by US companies each year to provide training programs to employees and managers, workplace sexual harassment persists. And according to some employment law experts, companies are getting better at settling allegations quietly.

As a condition of employment, many companies are now requiring their new hires to agree to arbitration if they have complaints. This often means that when an employee raises sexual harassment allegations against another employee or superior, the arbitration remains confidential and parties are not allowed to disclose details about a settlement.

The increase in arbitration does come with some potential benefits. Some attorneys say that it often results in a faster resolution for victims of sexual harassment and other job-related complaints.

However, arbitration can also protect perpetrators, especially high-profile ones. When sexual harassment claims are settled confidentially, the harasser may go unpunished and be likely to harass others.

One lawyer explains: "If you have that tendency, it's not going to stop with one settlement, and all the company was doing was writing a big check."

Nonetheless, it is important for victims of sexual harassment to seek justice, whether the offense was retaliation, quid pro quo harassment or inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. These behaviors have no place within the work environment. Sexual harassment is illegal and wrong.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, "Harassment claims often settled confidentially," Jeff Green, Nov. 20, 2011

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