A spotlight shining on the #metoo movement has made sexual harassment, a once silent offense, a trending topic in the U.S. and around the globe.
How can your human resources department ensure that your company is keeping employees safe?
Doing Your Part to Stop Sexual Harassment
The number and severity of the accusations that are scattered across our daily news has reinforced a real risk for business owners who do not currently have measures in place to protect employees from the devastating effects of sexual harassment.
In order to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, business owners, leaders, and human resources departments must understand what sexual harassment is, educate employees, and prepare policies that go in effect in the case a claim does arise.
This is the first in a series of blog posts discussing sexual harassment in the workplace.
What is Sexual Harassment?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in Title VII. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act also includes discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin. The Act affects employers in all 50 states with at least 15 employees.
Generally, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. All forms of verbal and non-verbal communication come into this category. Unwanted sexual comments, made through email and texting, inappropriate gestures, or physical touches are illegal.
Sexual harassment also includes negative or offensive remarks about a gender, even if not specific to the victim. An example of this would be a co-worker frequently making comments about how terrible men or women are.
Who Can Commit Sexual Harassment?
If these types of harassment create a hostile or offensive work environment for one person or multiple people, regardless of gender, it is considered harassment. Anyone can be a harasser or a victim of harassment, regardless of gender or job title.
Can Other Sex Discrimination be Offensible?
It is also important to take notice of other forms of sex-based discrimination.
During the hiring process, listing gender as a requirement of job description, such as “men’s jobs” or “women’s jobs” denies employment opportunities to one gender or the other and is illegal in most cases.
While some jobs do require gender-specific employees for authenticity, such as a female or male actor to fulfill a certain role, limiting a job to one gender based on assumed limitations of any sex is discrimination. For example, it is illegal to disqualify a person from a position because of presumed lifting capacity necessary to perform the work or number of hours required per week is discrimination.
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