How to Protect Your Company and Employees from Sexual Harassment

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When you are an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure that you maintain a safe work environment. Sexual harassment training is not just a legal requirement, it also makes smart business sense. If sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, you will suffer from lower productivity, lawsuits and poor morale. Sexual harassment is prohibited in accordance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and it is important to make sure that your workplace complies with state and federal laws.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is behavior of a sexual nature that is unwanted and unwelcome to the recipient. It may create a hostile work environment. Submission to unwanted advances may be expressed as a condition for receiving a promotion, keeping your job or certain benefits of the job. Harassment can also be derogatory comments, unwanted touching or sexually explicit jokes. Any gender, employee, employer or customer can become a victim of sexual harassment. This simplifies the definition of harassment and does not include all the circumstances and particulars of what it encompasses.

Preventing Sexual Harassment

Employers should maintain a policy that is committed to a positive and safe work environment free of harassment. They should use sexual harassment training as a part of their process to drive the culture. They should create an open-door policy where workers feel comfortable raising their concerns. In addition, there are a number of things employers can do proactively to decrease the chances of harassment in the workplace.

Create a Policy

The employee handbook should have a policy about sexual harassment. It should create a zero-tolerance policy. This policy should show a clear procedure for sexual harassment investigations and what to do if you have a complaint. If the investigations show that harassment did occur, the policy should be to discipline the individual up to and including termination.

Train Your Employees

Sexual harassment training should be offered to all new employees. At least once or more per year, employees should participate in harassment training. This is a chance for supervisors and employees to learn what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Managers and supervisors should have a separate training session. This session should teach supervisors how to handle complaints. Meanwhile, employees should learn what sexual harassment is and understand the complaint procedure.

Some states require training on sexual harassment. In California, employers are required to offer two hours of training every two years if they have 50 employees or more. Even when it is not legally required, it still makes sound business sense to protect your company and your employees.

Monitor Complaints in the Workplace

Once you have your policy in place, make sure to monitor the workplace. Talk to your employees and get their input. Make sure that communication is open with your employees, supervisors and managers. If there is a complaint, act on it immediately. Investigate the complaint thoroughly. Follow through with the complainant regarding your findings.

Some studies indicate an estimated 40 to 70 percent of women deal with harassment in the workplace and 10 to 20 percent of men, although that number may be higher. With a strong harassment policy and training, you can help foster a safe harassment free workplace.