Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, John Besh, Mark Halperin, Al Franken, Roy Moore… Lately, it seems like every day there is a new name, a new headline, a new allegation regarding sexual harassment. These high-profile individuals cross multiple industries from film, to restaurants, media, and politics. Regardless of their financial status, their industry, or their position, these individuals were employees. We are collectively watching their employers react to protect their organizations. As spectators to the upheaval caused by years of sexual harassment in the workplace, employers can learn a valuable lesson: preventing sexual harassment should be proactive rather than reactive.
Employers need to take measures to prevent sexual harassment while creating a culture and environment where sexual harassment cannot dwell. To help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace employers should ensure that:
- Anti-harassment policies are in place and are taken seriously. If a policy is not in place, a policy should be developed and implemented. Once the policy is in place, all employees should be held to the same level of accountability to the policy regardless of their performance, status, or position.
- Employees are proactively made aware of the policies. Providing the policy to new hires is not enough to successfully communicate the policy. Employers should communicate the policy regularly and make good faith efforts to ensure the policy is known and is easily accessible. Employer efforts could include anti-harassment training, meetings on respect in the workplace, posting the policy in a common work space, and revisiting the policy during performance reviews.
- Senior management supports the policies. Employers are responsible for holding their managers and supervisors accountable for preventing and responding to sexual harassment in the workplace. Management performance appraisals should assess each manager’s or supervisor’s commitment to maintaining a harassment-free workplace.
- Complaints can be filed through multiple channels. It is best practice to have multiple ways that employees can make a complaint. For example, if a policy states to go to the direct manager, but that manager is the harasser, the policy would not be effective. Employees should have at least two courses of action to make a complaint and further be able to make a complaint to any manager that they feel most comfortable with and/or Human Resources.
- Misconduct is investigated quickly and thoroughly. Investigations should happen in response to any formal or informal complaints, speculations, or rumors around the workplace. Employers should have pre-established investigation procedures and should be consistent in conducting and documenting the steps taken in each investigation.
- Serious action is taken when warranted. All employers should recognize that “no sexual harassment is acceptable.” Proper disciplinary action, including for high ranking officials and top performers, must be followed in order for a sexual harassment policy to be meaningful.
Failing to prevent sexual harassment, or even worse, ignoring an existing problem, can result in negative consequences including bad publicity, recruiting challenges, and significant financial ramifications. Be preventative and proactive to keep your company name out of the headlines.
HR Works, Inc. can assist employers with crafting legally compliant workplace policies, including sexual harassment, as well as providing customized training for employees and managers on their responsibilities to maintain a harassment-free workplace. Additionally, HR Works, Inc. can train employers how to conduct a sexual harassment investigation. Contact us today at (585) 381-8340 or email@example.com for additional information. Our Virtual HR Helpline clients can call or email with questions.
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