In today’s climate, we understand that sexual harassment continues to be a serious issue. It is a crime to make repeated offense comments, request sexual favors, engage in any unwanted touching or other advances, or worse, rape. Sexual misconduct is taken very seriously today, which is a great thing; however, certain nuances such as conversations of a sexual nature aren’t always included. This can lead to sexual harassment claims being made in the workplace, putting the victim in a vulnerable state, and have an impact on the safety of your work environment. On that note, here are the best ways to successfully prevent any type of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Build A Training Program
While it may seem clear as day to most what is acceptable behavior in the workplace and what isn’t, you will still want to ensure you prevent any form of sexual harassment. Therefore, it’s best to create a training program to train your employees and make them feel safe as well. With sexual misconduct being a big issue all over the world, all companies must ensure employees commit to sexual harassment training. To ensure employees know their state’s law, most businesses begin with compliance training conducted by professionals who make it easy to understand. This way, you’ll not only avoid hefty fines, but you can ensure your employees are all fully aware of how to behave in the workplace. With a thorough training program, you can ensure your company prevents any sexual misconduct from taking place.
Ensure Employees Understand Everything Under The Umbrella Term
Sexual harassment is an umbrella term that covers a lot of ground, so you want to ascertain that all employees know what behaviors are involved when it comes to harassment. This means you will have to cover everything from inappropriate contact and sexual comments to watching or displaying inappropriate content. It’s important for everyone in the workforce to understand exactly which unwanted interactions are under the umbrella. Insisting a colleague go on a date after being rebuked, engaging in unwanted flirting, physical touching such as grabbing of the waist, patting on the back, any other physical interaction the victim does not care for, and relaying sexual jokes and comments towards a coworker, or making suggestive comments on their clothing are all unacceptable. It also needs to be clearly stated that suggestive behaviors such as playing sexually explicit music, displaying sexual content through posters and objects, or sending coworkers sexually explicit emails and photos are also considered sexual misconduct.
Clearly State Sexual Harassment Policy
You want to keep these conversations positive to ensure everyone is comfortably on board and happy to comply with maintaining a safe work environment. However, you want to be adamant about your organization’s sexual harassment policy. Ensure that each staff member clearly understands the zero-tolerance policy and that ensuring safety is a priority. Explain the steps that will be taken for anyone who violates the policy and makes sure that every complaint will be responded to. You want everyone to be fully aware of the immediate action that will be taken if these lines are crossed, and you also want victims to feel comfortable confiding in their supervisors if they experience any unwanted attention.
There are different degrees of sexual misconduct; some allow for remedial actions, some allow for disciplinary actions, and some will immediately lead to the firing of the accused employee. This is all depending on the type of behavior they have engaged in and what would make the victim feel the most comfortable. The victim’s satisfaction plays a huge role in how to handle the resolution. An apology may suffice for certain incidents, such as an inappropriate joke or comment made to the victim; other types of harassment will warrant training. In severe cases like assault, not only will the employee be granted no remedial actions and lose their job, but they may end up in court as this is a serious offense.
Once you have ensured all employees have committed to the sexual harassment training and have established a zero-tolerance policy towards any form of sexual violence, make sure that, aside from preventative measures, you also provide employees with tips on how to become active bystanders. Employees must know how to report any incidents as well as feel comfortable expressing their concerns with a trusted supervisor. They should know how to protect one another and stop unwanted behaviors towards victims. After all, sexual misconduct prevention is not only the Human Resources (HR) responsibility, it is the workforce’s responsibility, and everyone must work together to maintain a safe and healthy environment.