Women are speaking out about the sexual harassment they’ve endured in the workplace for decades. From film producer Harvey Weinstein to television host Charlie Rose to politician Al Franken, numerous high-profile men have been accused of improper behavior, often by multiple women. Although cases involving powerful and well-known garner the biggest headlines, it’s not reasonable to assume that the problem is unique to celebrities and politicians. If fact, your business might be at risk.
Does your company have a solid sexual harassment policy and training in place?
The first step toward keeping sexual harassment out of the workplace is developing a policy against it. This should be a written policy that specifically defines and prohibits sexual harassment. It should also include the procedure to be followed should an incident occur, including how it will be reported, investigated and resolved. All employees should be required to read the policy and sign it to show that they agree.
Sexual harassment training, which can be done online or in person, is another way to ensure that everyone understands what is and is not acceptable. These courses are especially well-suited for supervisors or following a complaint. Some states also require sexual harassment training under certain circumstances.
Do employees have a safe way to make complaints?
Not hearing any complaints of sexual harassment can be a good thing – but only if it’s because sexual harassment has not occurred. If, on the other hand, sexual harassment has occurred, but the victims feel they have no way to report it, the problem still exists, and it will likely grow.
Employees must have a safe, comfortable way of reporting sexual harassment. They should know who to talk to. For larger companies, this will likely be the HR department. For smaller companies with no HR department, it’s important that employees have a way to report issues that does not involve complaining directly to the harasser. For example, if an employee is being harassed by her supervisor, she should have someone other than her supervisor to report the incident to. This should be made clear in the written sexual harassment policy.
Are complaints addressed appropriately?
Making sure employees can report issues is important, but it means little if the complaints are not handled well. Employees who report sexual harassment should be taken seriously. Their complaints must not be dismissed by saying the employee is overly sensitive or that’s just how the alleged harasser behaves.
Furthermore, the employee should not have to fear any sort of retaliation. This is also a legal issue, as retaliation would run afoul of Equal Employment Opportunity laws.
Your company may be at risk.
If you can’t answer yes to all three of the above questions, your company might be vulnerable to incidents of sexual harassment. This can have numerous negative consequences, including low morale, a loss of talent and legal liability. Even when you are diligent, lawsuits occur. Ask us how you can protect your company’s bottom line with Employment Practices Liability Insurance.