Businesses place themselves at greater risk by failing to put policies in place regarding sexual harassment. Claims of inappropriate sexual conduct at work, such as those that have been appearing almost daily in the news, often occur or escalate due, in part, to a lack of institutional priorities focused on preventing sexual harassment.
Under the law, employers are required to take seriously and investigate all reported instances of sexual harassment. It is also against the law to retaliate against an employee for filing a sexual harassment claim, regardless of the results of any internal investigation.
As we are reminded every day, however, sexual harassment remains a pervasive problem in the workplace despite existing laws. Below are a few steps every business should take to prohibit sexual harassment at work.
- Start with senior leadership. Organizations with leaders that take gender equality and sexual harassment seriously suffer less from harassing behavior. Having women in senior leadership roles also reduces the likelihood of sexual harassment throughout the organization.
- Training. Every employee should undergo anti-sexual harassment training. It is an issue that must be addressed as soon as possible after an employee’s start date to ensure that employees know what types of behavior are inappropriate, which steps to take and what resources are available to employees who experience sexual harassment, and that the company will take any such claims seriously.
- Written policies. The business should have an explicit and clear policy that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace. Employees should know their rights regarding reporting violations of this policy. The policy should be easily accessible in the employee handbook and posted in a prominent area such as the breakroom.
- Take everyday precautions. Keep work-sponsored events rated PG. Never laugh at inappropriate jokes. Take all sexual harassment claims seriously. Consider having employees who enter into a relationship sign a consensual agreement form. In all actions, remember that the business’s sexual harassment policy is a vital part of the success of the business.
This is not an exhaustive list. If you have questions about your workplace policies, consider obtaining an audit from a law firm with experience in drafting and reviewing employer sexual harassment policies.