The burden of preventing sexual harassment rests on the employer, there is no way around that. Employers are, therefore, required by law to take steps to prevent and deal with harassment in the workplace. Most successful preventive strategies are have a written company policy against sexual harassment as well as providing sexual harassment training for all manager and supervisory staff.
UNDERSTANDING SEXUAL HARASSMENT
When employees sue for sexual harassment, in addition to the company, most include the individual harasser in the lawsuit. For this reason alone, those who are prone to borderline inappropriate behavior will back off quickly if they know that their personal assets are at stake, not just their employers.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual Harassment is unwelcome verbal, visual, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment. Given this broad definition, sexual harassment can come in many forms. The following are all examples of sexual harassment:
- A manager insinuates to an employee that they must sleep with him or her to keep a job or receive a promotion.
- An employee makes demeaning or graphic comments about female customers to their coworkers.
- An employee is made uncomfortable by a co-worker who regularly tell sexually explicit jokes.
- An employee touches or fondles a coworker against their will.
- An employee sends emails to coworkers that contain sexually explicit language and jokes.
Sexual harassment is a gender-neutral. Men can sexually harass women, and women can sexually harass men, even same sex genders can claim harassment. However, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment claims and charges are brought by women claiming that they were sexually harassed by men.
Strategies for Prevention
There are a number of steps that you can take to reduce the risk of sexual harassment occurring in your workplace.
- Adopt a clear sexual harassment policy. In your employee handbook, you should have a policy devoted to sexual harassment. That policy should:
- define sexual harassment
- state in no uncertain terms that you will not tolerate sexual harassment
- state that you will discipline or fire any wrongdoers
- set out a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints
- state that you will investigate fully any complaint that you receive, and
- state that you will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains about sexual harassment.
- Train employees. At least once a year, conduct training sessions for employees. These sessions should teach employees what sexual harassment is, explain that employees have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, review your complaint procedure, and encourage employees to use it.
Sexual Harassment Training Requirements
Some states require certain employers to conduct sexual harassment training. For example, California law requires employers that have at least 50 employees to provide supervisors with two hours of interactive sexual harassment training every two year. Connecticut and Maine also require sexual harassment training. And other states strongly encourage employers to provide such training, even if it isn’t legally required. Even if your state doesn’t require or suggest training, it’s still a good idea because your managers will know what the law is and what to do when employees complain, and, if you find yourself in a lawsuit, you’ll be able to show that you took steps to try to prevent harassment.