Sexual harassment is often a taboo topic amongst business owners and executive teams for the obvious reason that no one wants to deal with it. However, when you work in business management, it’s next to impossible to separate the employee oversight element from your job description. On a day-to-day basis, you’re dealing with groups of people who often spend more time with each other than they do with their own families and friends. In such an environment, it should be expected that issues involved potentially inappropriate workplace relationships or unwanted romantic advances should come up. Thus, it should come as little surprise that according to The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission an average of over 13,100 sexual harassment claims are made every year.
The Danger of Overlooking the Potential for Harassment in Your Office
If you choose to avoid the potential for a sexual harassment claim in your office, you do so at your own risk. Too often, executives and managers subscribe to the false idea that personal issues between employees will have little effect on them. In reality, your ignoring a claim of sexual harassment by an employee could open your organization up to:
- Damaged employee morale
- Decreased productivity
- The potential for legal action
You may feel as though you have a close enough relationship with your employees to avoid the possibility of any of these problems occurring by dealing with any issues internally. However, wouldn’t it better to use that trust that you have gained to educate employees on avoiding the potential for sexual harassment claims in the first place? Such action would save you from having to deal with it and avoid any potential tension that such a claim could introduce to your office environment.
Define It Before Having to Deal With It
Before you begin planning on how to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in your workplace, you need to define what it actually is. Most assume it to be unwanted sexual advances that one co-worker makes towards another, yet harassment goes far beyond that. It could be employees sharing sexually-explicit stories or content that makes others feel uncomfortable. It can also include the telling of off-colored jokes. Basically, any activity surrounding sex that makes one feel uncomfortable to point of feeling harassed would qualify. Even in the event where no laws are broken, those who feel that they’ve been sexually harassed may opt to bring civil action against you and your company.
Creating Your Own Sexual Harassment Prevention Program
Fortunately, creating and implementing a sexual harassment prevention program needn’t be too challenging. The following steps are given as a guide in working your way through this process:
- Create a detailed sexual harassment policy: The most common defense in allegations of sexual harassment is that the accused never knew that he or she was doing something wrong. You can easily take away this excuse by creating a well-defined sexual harassment policy to be included in your company’s by-laws. In it should be included which actions are considered sexual harassment, how it should be reported, and what actions will be taken after an incident is detailed.
- Conduct annual employee training: Keep your company’s sexual harassment policy fresh in your employees’ minds by reviewing it in a yearly training. Training should also be used to talk about new activities and trends that could contribute to harassment. If needed, update your policy accordingly.
- Provide additional training for management: On top of the annual training on your policy, you should also provide continued training for manager and supervisors on how to effectively deal with accusations of sexual harassment or how to spot the warning signs of such activity potential occurring within their respective employee teams.
A sexual harassment claim has the potential to tear an office community apart and bring an organization’s operations to a standstill. Don’t let such an event derail the progress of your company. Preventing the potential for sexual harassment in the workplace is incredibly difficult, provided that you’re willing to dedicate the time and resources to keeping your staff informed about it. However, your decision to do so will more than pay off through being able to enjoy an effective and respectful workplace atmosphere.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.