What Can Employers Do to Address Workplace Sexual Harassment?
Even if perpetrators are responsible for their illegal actions, it is still the responsibility of the employers to address and deal with the situation promptly and properly. They have a legal obligation to establish and maintain a workplace that’s free from sexual harassment. If they allow any form of sexual harassment to develop and flourish in the workplace, the company could suffer from poor employee morale and low productivity.
In some cases, they could even face serious repercussions and lawsuits. Under the U.S. employment law, employers must implement prevention strategies and policies against sexual harassment. They must also make sure these policies effectively help and protect people getting harassed. But what are some of the things employers must do in situations involving sexual harassment?
What is sexual harassment in the workplace?
Before we explore the strategies employers can follow, let’s answer one of the most common faqs regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. What constitutes sexual harassment? This term is defined as any unwelcome sexual conduct or advances that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment and make an employee uncomfortable.
It comes in many forms, and it’s not limited to “sexual” acts. For example, one employee could belittle their co-worker and refer to them by sexist or sexual orientation-based demeaning terms. Employers must have a legal understanding of sexual harassment so they can properly address their employee’s complaints.
Strategies to prevent and address workplace sexual harassment
As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure a safe and comfortable work environment for your people. You must deal with harassers fairly and take reasonable actions to resolve the issue. Even if victims have the option to pursue a remedy outside the company, you must respond appropriately to the incident and provide them the necessary support.
1. Develop and implement a clear sexual harassment policy
All companies, regardless of size, have a legal duty to prevent and remedy incidences involving sexual harassment. Employers must develop and adopt clear anti-sexual harassment policies within their organization. It should be part of their employee handbook or contract, for which workers must sign their acknowledgment and agreement with the policy.
2. Conduct training sessions and educate employees
Every company should conduct training sessions for their employees at least once a year. These sessions could include programs that educate workers about what sexual harassment is, what legal rights a victim has, and what procedures they must take to report incidences. You can also use these annual training programs to teach supervisors and managers how to handle and deal with complaints.
3. Monitor workplace
A good employer cares about their workers and monitors the issues taking place in their company. It’s a good idea to get out among your employees and talk to them about the environment in the workplace periodically. You must also keep the line of communication open with your supervisors and managers to know what’s going on.
4. Investigate any complaints and always take them seriously
Whether the alleged victim filed the complaint or you became aware of the incident in another way, you must immediately investigate the situation confidentially and discretely. Don’t disclose any information about the incident unless it’s necessary or required by law. You should also inform both parties about the results and corrective actions taken. It’s also crucial for employers to treat the complaining party with respect and avoid retaliating.
5. Get legal help
In more extreme cases involving attempted or actual physical assault, sexual assault, or threats of an assault, sexual harassment can lead to serious liability. The company may face punitive damages and other significant issues. It’s best to get legal help and counsel to help you navigate complex incidences and provide proper responses to sexual harassment claims.
The wrong approach to workplace sexual harassment can cause serious problems for employers. To protect your company, navigate complex claims, and help victims with the proper action to resolve the issue, consider seeking legal counsel from an experienced employment lawyer. They’re your best resource at understanding the correct approach to address workplace harassment complaints.