It’s staggering just how many reports there have been in the news lately about sexual harassment claims in the workplace. What’s more is that, if a claim is made in your place of business, your company’s reputation is likely to take a hit – at least from a public relations standpoint.
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What continues to be clear is that no industry or business is immune. And while you may be able to control most aspects of your company or organization, you cannot control the actions of your employees. But that doesn’t mean you have to stand idly by… just waiting for an incident to be reported. Instead, take a proactive stance against sexual harassment in your business. Put policies in place, conducting training sessions and regularly review federal and state anti-harassment provisions – especially before implementing any policy for your employees.
Don’t Just Say It – Implement It
It is one thing to be “strongly against” sexual harassment in the workplace. It is quite another to put a policy in the books and back it up with annual training. The following points will help illustrate what a five-star anti-sexual harassment initiative looks like.
What is the company’s objective in implementing and enforcing the sexual harassment policy?
To define workplace sexual harassment, prohibit it in all forms, carry out appropriate disciplinary measures in case of violations and provide procedures for submitting complaints that violate the sexual harassment policy.
What is the definition of sexual harassment?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website states that sexual harassment means to harass a person because of that person’s sex, including making unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. Moreover, sexual harassment also includes offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Another helpful resource for business owners is the U.S. Department of State’s website. Check it out for more information.
What should all businesses have in place?
All businesses should have a formal sexual harassment policy in place and each employee should have a copy easily accessible within their employee handbook. An employee signature page should be included in the policy and all employees should be required to sign the form. This form should be kept in their employee file.
Don’t Just Talk The Talk, Walk The Walk
In addition to drawing up, implementing and maintaining a formal sexual harassment policy, your company should provide annual sexual harassment training for all employees. These points will provide you with some guidance to demonstrate what an annual training session should consist of and how to manage the initiative.
What should this consist of?
- There are a variety of training supplements to assist with delivering this information. i.e.: videos, case scenarios, etc.
- Complete a training log with topic of training, date & time of training and have attendees sign in for the training session.
Remember that training doesn’t not have to be extensive. In fact, a comprehensive training session can take place over the course of 15-20 minutes.
Who should attend this annual training?
- ALL employees, including management and senior leadership.
- It is also recommended to provide an additional annual training to all supervisory or management staff.
Why do supervisors/managers need additional sexual harassment training?
Supervisors/managers are likely to be the first individual an employee might notify regarding a sexual harassment issue. Therefore, supervisors/managers should be specifically trained and well versed on how to handle these types of conversations. This is critical in any type of sexual harassment complaint investigation and resolution.
We are committed providing you with current information regarding employment policies and protection for your workplace. Email Rea & Associates for additional questions or assistance.
By Renee West, SHRM-CP, PHR (New Philadelphia office)
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