The laws on sexual harassment in the workplace are clear. No employee should be subjected to any unwanted physical contact, comments of a sexual nature, or other conduct that creates a hostile work environment, and employers have a duty to create a work environment free from any such harassment.
As an employer, knowing the laws and establishing a no-tolerance policy for harassment sets the tone for your business.
What does this mean for an employer? It means communicating clear guidelines and setting expectations. Below are a few ways you can cultivate an environment free of sexual harassment.
- Clearly outline what qualifies as sexual harassment: Something that may seem obvious to you won’t be to every employee, and employees may have different understandings of what conduct is appropriate and inappropriate in the workplace. Make sure you clearly communicate what constitutes sexual harassment to employees during training and in any employee manuals you distribute.
- Establish policy in accordance with federal, state and local laws: Make sure all company policies regarding sexual harassment are in compliance with the laws governing workers’ rights, including New York City laws if applicable.
- Give employees written materials: Training employees on sexual harassment is important, but you should also offer resources they can come back to should they need to review the company’s policies later.
- Have a system for reporting harassment: Make sure you have a way for employees to easily and confidentially file complaints of sexual harassment within your organization. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against their employees for filing a complaint, and it is vital that your employees have a means to file complaints without fear of reprisal.
- Take every complaint seriously: Make sure employees know you will follow up on complaints and take action against harassment that has occurred.
As an employer, it is important to remember that you and your employees have rights. Establishing clear rules and guidelines can help you avoid problems before they happen, and protect the company should sexual harassment occur.