Recently you may have read that the Mississippi Dunes Golf Course was found liable for sexual harassment of 4 female employees by its owner. The women were awarded $130,000.00 and a $20,000.00 penalty payable to the state was assessed. However, that’s not the sole cost. There is the golf course’s own attorney fees and costs and the Minnesota Human Rights Act provides for payment of the women’s attorney fees and costs as well. Aside from the direct financial costs, what about the courses hospitality reputation? The impact of that may continue for years.
The owner seemed to consider his business the way casual golfers considers golf, as a hobby without major concerns of the hazards. A business owner must treat his or her business enterprise the same way professional golfers go about their business. Avoid the hazards and you will achieve better results. You would think that the owner of a golf course would have the business sense to avoid the hazard of a sexual harassment claim.
Sexual harassment is illegal. Many small businesses have multiple owners. Any one of the owners could subject the business to a claim of sexual harassment. And it’s not just the owners. Sexual harassment by directors, managers, and supervisors is a basis for a business being held liable even if the owners of the business were unaware of the illegal conduct.
Small business owners, our advice is to know that this hazard is out there on the course of your business. Similar to what professional golfers do as they go about their business, make sure you have a game plan for conducting your business and avoiding this particular hazard. At minimum have a sexual harassment policy, a procedure for addressing any complaint of sexual harassment, and make sure you strictly enforce the policy.
If you need any assistance addressing sexual harassment claims, or any other type of business hazard, Caldecott & Forro can help you navigate your course.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice in the context of a specific case. Caldecott & Forro, PLC provides free initial consultations to clients and potential clients on all family law matters.