Sexual harassment is an umbrella term encompassing a number of unwanted behaviors that include physical as well as non-physical harassment. Sexual harassment in your workplace is a serious issue and, no matter how large or small the incidents are and who is involved, managers or employers must take quick and appropriate actions. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated by anyone in the workplace like a co-worker, manager or a client. The perpetrator and the recipient could be anyone, irrespective of the gender. Physical harassment includes touches, hugs and coerced sex acts whereas non-physical harassment includes suggestive gestures and remarks, and requests for sexual fervors. In fact any conduct of sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable can be termed as sexual harassment.
Being an employer, you have the responsibility and legal obligation to look after that there is no sexual harassment in your organization. If you fail to take strong measures and sexual harassment flourishes in your organization, you might have to face severe consequences including low productivity, poor employee morale and lawsuits. Even if such instances do not always occur in the office, being an employer you still have the responsibility to investigate and handle any such incident related to your employees. However,there are certain strategies that could help you prevent sexual harassment in your workplace.
- Sexual Harassment Policy
As an employer, you must have a clear sexual harassment policy in the employee handbook. The policy must include:
- Definition of sexual harassment
- Procedure for making sexual harassment complaints
- No tolerance policy for sexual harassment under any circumstances
- Policy for full and thorough investigation of the received complaints
- Policy for disciplinary actions against wrongdoers
- No tolerance policy for retaliation against anyone who complains about sexual harassment
2. Training the Employees
You must conduct training sessions for employees, at least once a year. Such sessions must be aimed at making the employees aware and alert of Sexual harassment in your workplace, their rights and duties and your complaint procedure. You must encourage the employees to use the right procedures to fight against sexual harassment and to help make the organization a safer place to work.
3. Training Managers and Supervisors
Separate training sessions must be conducted for the managers and the supervisors, at least once a year. Such sessions must aim at educating the managers and supervisors about sexual harassment and explaining to them how to handle the complaints.
4. Taking Quick Actions
Whenever you receive a sexual harassment complaint, you must take it seriously and start a quick and proper investigation. If you conclude that the complaint was valid, you must take swift and effective action against the offender.
5. Monitor the Work Environment
It’s a good practice to converse with your employees periodically and talk about the work environment. Take suggestions from them and look around the workplace for any offensive notes, posters or gestures. Communicate with your managers and supervisors about maintaining a safe work environment.
There are some states that mandate sexual harassment training sessions at workplaces. And, there are some that strongly encourage employers to conduct such pieces of training, even if it is not required legally. However, even if such training is not mandatory or suggested in your state, it’s always a good idea to conduct such training. These training help managers to understand the law and what actions to be taken when they receive a complaint. Also, if there is a lawsuit against you, you can show that you took enough measures to prevent sexual harassment.