The #MeToo movement has dominated the headlines over the past year. With allegations surfacing from multiple industries around the world, it’s no surprise that the discussion of sexual harassment has become more prevalent in the workplace. Companies are now under close scrutiny as they are expected to address the issue of harassment in day-to-day operations. Employees are looking at company leadership to keep them safe by enforcing workplace policies and taking effective and immediate action when a complaint surfaces.
The paramount question employers should be asking is: how can we prevent sexual harassment from infecting our workplace? We’re here to help answer that.
1) Clearly define it.
The first step for any company to take is to define what sexual harassment looks like in their workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature,” that interferes with the victim’s work performance or creates a “ hostile or offensive work environment.” Putting clear parameters around the notion is important and can help employees have a better understanding of what to look for. Consider these actions when demonstrating what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace:
- Inappropriate touching
- Sharing of suggestive emails, texts, notes, or other forms of communication
- Complimenting another employee’s physique, appearance, or clothing in a suggestive manner
- Sharing lewd jokes or making offensive comments about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity
While there are several other examples of sexual harassment in the workplace, providing definitive examples can help current employees and new hires know what to keep an eye out for and avoid. A list of these examples should be outlined clearly in your employee handbook and explained during the onboarding process.
2) Be prepared for it.
A best practice is for Human Resources to implement a zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy. A tangible policy sends a message to workers that leadership is aiming to keep everyone safe and may protect from lawsuits . However, when it comes to prevention companies don’t just need to write policies, they need to execute them within their culture.
Top workplaces around the world seem to share one similar characteristic: effective and open communication. Employers should encourage conversation and make it a regular practice to ask employees about their working environment to ensure that it stays harassment free. This practice also has the byproduct of protecting the company from lawsuits.
3) Respond to it.
Companies must respond to all complaints no matter the scale. Employers should react in an effective and timely manner when dealing with allegations in order to limit any potential liability. Keep the following best practices in mind when responding to a sexual harassment claim:
- Have an HR representative present during any conversation involving a sexual harassment complaint. Our team offers this service if your company does not currently have an HR professional or if you’re looking for outside support.
- Involving outside legal counsel can protect the company from any serious liability and protect any communication through attorney-client privilege.
- All claims are to be respected. Employees can be hesitant to come forward with a complaint.
We can help.
Tackling sexual harassment complaints can be tough for all parties involved. We’re here to make things easier. Our team of HR experts can take on employee relations issues that often prove to be a burden on employers. We can handle the tough conversations and establish a zero-tolerance policy that is clearly outlined in a customized employee handbook. And if those conversations end in termination of an employee, we can help you with that process as well. Everyday we help employers manage day-to-day HR and personnel-related tasks; tasks that can distract a business from doing what it does best.
At SourcePointe, we utilize our industry-experience to provide you with a multitude of customizable HR services, support, and solutions. All so your business can do one thing – more business. We’ll provide tailor-made solutions that fit your company’s needs while providing a solid return on your investment that pays off immediately – and for many years after that.Back to Insights