Sexual harassment occurs in the workplace at a higher level than most people want to admit. An allegation of sexual harassment can have devastating consequences for your business and your profit margins. Employers need to be proactive in dealing with this problem.
According to the Association of Women for Action and Research, women are more likely to experience sexual harassment than men, but men are also harassed. Even more astonishing, about two-thirds of the people surveyed were not aware of any policies within their place of employment that would provide for redress.
Recognizing sexual harassment and creating a harassment-free workplace
Mark I. Schickman, past President of the Bar Association of San Francisco , published an article with the American Bar Association that one of the biggest issues in considering sexual harassment is knowing what it is, how to recognize it and then how to approach it. Schickman explains that it makes no difference if a harasser was intentionally trying to harass; what matters is how the victim experienced the behavior.
Because this is a liability for the employer, it is important to educate your employees about sexual harassment. Your business should create a harassment-free workplace before such acts even occur. It is recommended that you should create and disseminate a sexual harassment prohibition policy and method of reporting.
Your leadership must stress the importance of reporting complaints in a timely fashion and acting on those complaints. Once a complaint is made, an investigation should be launched, giving both the alleged harasser and the complainant the full opportunity to tell their story without conclusions being reached until everyone is heard from. You need policies in place to tell all managers how to handle the investigation. All parties should be informed that there can be no retaliation for a sexual harassment complaint, no matter how the investigation comes out.
Federal laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is the primary law that prohibits sexual harassment. As an employer, if you do not address sexual harassment, your business could be held liable for creating a hostile work environment. However, if you have a clear policy in place and train your employees, supervisors and managers about sexual harassment and how to deal with complaints, it minimizes your risk.
Make sure you follow the law regarding sexual harassment prevention to protect your bottom line. Work with your business attorney to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, because prevention is much less expensive than a lawsuit.