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Sexual Harassment Suit Filed Against Silicon Valley Venture Capital Firm

Recently, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm, CMEA Capital, found itself at the wrong end of an 89 count complaint alleging that one of its partners, John Haag, had sexually harassed three of the firm’s executive assistants. Claiming that Haag was a known predator, the complaint paints a sordid picture of his conduct replete with lurid details more compatible with bordello life than investment firm culture.  These allegations were corroborated by an independent review and Haag was bought out, but by that time the damage had been done.

The prevention of sexual harassment in the work place is an essential goal for all employers. Not only is it the law, but it makes financial and moral sense to recognize sexual harassment and eliminate it. One form of sexual harassment occurs when job benefits are tied to demands for sexual favors, or the employee’s refusal of such demands leads to adverse job consequences. More commonly, suits arise because unwelcome, sexually motivated verbal, pictorial, written or physical enticement creates a hostile work environment.

A strong and successful anti-harassment policy is characterized by a clearly conveyed zero tolerance attitude towards sexual harassment. It provides a safe outlet for complaints and affords redress through the imposition of disciplinary sanctions upon the offending employee.  A crucial component of this policy is an effective compliance protocol that encourages prompt reporting of the harassment, makes available an appropriate outlet for the grievance, and shields the reporting employee from retaliation.

In some cases there will be a very fine line between romance and harassment and the use of sensitive investigatory tools will be necessary in order to decide what steps should be taken.  This is not an arena for amateurs.  There is simply too much at stake. An experienced attorney can help to ensure that the policy and procedures you implement in your firm to eliminate sexual harassment will achieve the desired results.

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