It is the obligation of every employer to provide a safe working environment for their employees. One of the big ticket items concerns the issue of sexual harassment. It is tricky as it deals with sex and power – something too intimate and personal for the workplace. As such, there is a need to be extra cautious and mindful on how to protect all employees and your organization against it.
Women are more likely to experience it, particularly those who are working in a male dominated field, but there have also been cases where men have become the victim.
There are two kinds of sexual harassment situations. The first involves the harasser demanding sexual favors in exchange of employment benefits, while the other one deals with a hostile work environment including unwelcome sexual behavior, comments, and jokes that oppress and intimidate. In either case, this results in negative effects on the victim’s work performance.
But sexual harassment can be stopped and prevented in any organization. Employees can protect themselves and companies can take active steps in ensuring nobody gets afflicted with this problem. Here are some of the best steps to take:
- Have a strong policy against sexual harassment. The company should commit to a zero-tolerance and harassment-free workplace. All employees should be made aware of this policy through the employee handbook. To create this policy, check with federal, state, and local laws. Include anti-retaliation components and communicate that no one who comes forward with a claim will be discriminated. Getting the report is the first step in catching sexual harassers in your organization.
- Conduct training and retraining. Make this a mandatory training for everyone, including supervisors and managers. Teach employees what sexual harassment is, reiterate your commitment towards a sexual harassment-free workplace, define clear consequences, review your complaint procedure, and encourage employees to come forward if any issue arises.
- Monitor the workplace. Keep communication lines open. Ask employees how they are doing and how they feel about the working environment. Look around the office and check for any offensive notes, too. Watch out for harassing content in e-mails and other forms of communication. More important, be on the lookout for inappropriate behavior and promptly stop it.
- Encourage employees to be proactive. Ensure they have the right to assert themselves and tell the sexual predator to stop the unwanted behavior. Tell them their options if the offender does not change or if they do not feel safe confronting this person.
- Foster a sexual harassment-free environment. Ensure all activities are professional in nature. Remind all employees that the office is not a place for crude jokes and to watch their speech for offensive content. Never laugh at or encourage inappropriate jokes.
- Respond to all complaints promptly and seriously. Immediately act on any complaint from the employees. Treat any complaint with care and investigate accordingly. Always address the situation seriously. If harassment is discovered, then you should take prompt action and discipline or terminate the offender. Also, take steps to prevent retaliation from the harasser. Demonstrate to everyone that there is no tolerance for sexual harassment in your office.