All employees have the right to work in an environment that is free of sexual harassment or any form of discrimination. It is up to leadership and the human resources department to meet the requirements of Title VII of the of the Civil Rights Act to maintain a harassment and discrimination-free workplace.
This is the second in a series of blog posts discussing sexual harassment in the workplace. Learn more about the basics of sexual harassment and the laws surrounding discrimination in the workplace.
Leadership, Human Resources and Sexual Harassment
Business owners, managers, supervisors, and human resources professionals should stand behind a zero-tolerance policy. As your company encourages employees to identify and report instances of harassment or hostility, ensure your leadership team is on-board and prepared to address issues immediately.
Sexual Harassment Policy
Employees need to know, and be reminded of, your workplace’s sexual harassment policy. Include a zero-tolerance statement in your employee handbook to ensure all new hires are aware of the disciplinary actions that will be taken if misconduct occurs and the routes they should take to report instances of misconduct.
Policies should be clear and easy to understand. They should also be posted in common areas and available within the human resources department as a reference and reminder to employees.
Sexual Harassment Reporting
Any individual can report instances of misconduct, regardless of gender, age, position within the company, or if they are the victim. If George enjoys Roy’s lewd jokes, but Danny in the next cubicle over is offended when he overhears, Danny may be individual who reports the instance.
All reports of misconduct should be taken seriously and be responded to immediately. If there is not an effective route of communication regarding reports of sexual harassment, employees may be discouraged from bringing up issues. Silence from employees can leave you unaware of misconduct until it is too late to intervene.
To protect the company from mishandling a claim, employees and the individuals within the company who are a part of the human resources reporting team should be coached on how to document complaints. Ensure these individuals learn how to properly prepare sexual harassment reporting forms that include all relevant information should any disciplinary actions be taken.
Provide your team with the resources necessary to investigate claims and handle them appropriately.
The most important tool for preventing sexual harassment in your workplace is to provide training resources and education.
Employees should be made aware of the policies in place that protect them from sexual harassment, but they should also be taught how to identify misconduct and report it. We recommend providing sexual harassment training annually for all employees. Training typically discusses what sexual harassment is, what the risks are if you are harassing a co-worker, supervisor, or vendor, and how to encourage a harassment-free workplace.
As managers and supervisors may be the individuals employees report instances of misconduct to, consider requiring additional training sessions for your leadership team.
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