Sexual harassment affects the morale, health and performance of those subjected to it. The anxiety and stress produced by sexual harassment commonly lead to reduced workplace efficiency and productivity. Sometimes the effects of sexual harassment can even cause employees to leave their job. On top of that, sexual harassment can lead to lawsuits for the employer.
Employers have a legal obligation to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. So what can you do to reduce the risk of sexual harassment in your workplace? Here are three important steps:
CREATE A POLICY
Developing an anti-sexual harassment policy is crucial when seeking to build a safe and positive work atmosphere. First, make sure you understand federal laws and your state laws concerning sexual harassment. According to those laws, create a policy devoted specifically to sexual harassment and include it as part of your employee handbook. The policy should:
Explain what types of conduct are considered sexual harassment.
Clearly state that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, and that disciplinary measures will be taken against those who engage in sexual harassment.
Explain the proper procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints
Describe the procedure for resolving sexual harassment complaints. The procedure should include a full investigation concerning every complaint received.
State that you will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains about sexual harassment.
Outline a plan to inform new management and employees of the facility’s sexual harassment policy and reporting procedure.
In some states employers are required to conduct sexual harassment training, while in others they are just strongly encouraged to do so. Whether or not you live in a state where sexual harassment training is a requirement, providing training to your employees can only benefit your organization or business.
Employers should work with their HR department to develop training that addresses sexual harassment in the workplace. This training should take place at least once a year and should include all employees, from front-line workers to the executive team.
Training sessions should cover your anti-sexual harassment policy. They should make employees aware of the different types of sexual harassment, the procedure for filing a complaint, and what action will be taken after a complaint is filed. It’s a good idea to provide every employee with a copy of the company anti-harassment policy during training as well.
MONITOR THE WORKPLACE
After you’ve created a policy and provided training to all employees concerning sexual harassment, it’s important to continue to facilitate a safe and harassment-free workplace. Don’t simply hand out a policy and conduct training once a year and then forget about it until the next year. Instead, monitor your workplace year-round. Make a point to periodically speak with employees, supervisors and managers about their work environment. Ask them how things are going and if they have any cause for concern. Keep an eye out for signs and behaviors that suggest sexual harassment. Keep communication open so you can identify and solve problems as quickly and efficiently as possible.
It’s also important for employers to maintain the level of behavior they expect. Modeling appropriate behavior that aligns with your company anti-harassment policy will send a positive message to employees. Make it known that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
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