Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) encourages employers to take certain steps necessary to prevent and correct workplace harassment.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of unlawful sex discrimination that can occur in a variety of circumstances. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct:
- Explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment;
- Unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance; or
- Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
Preventing and Correcting Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Below are various actions the EEOC recommends employers take to prevent and correct workplace harassment.
- Establish, distribute, and enforce a policy prohibiting harassment and setting out a procedure for making complaints. An employer’s anti-harassment policy should make clear that the employer will not tolerate sexual harassment or retaliation against anyone who complains of harassment or who participates in an investigation.
- Conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of any harassment complaint. The investigator should interview the employee who complained of harassment, the alleged harasser, and others who could reasonably be expected to have relevant information. The alleged harasser should not have any direct or indirect control over the investigation.
- Take immediate measures to stop confirmed harassment and ensure it does not recur. Disciplinary measures should be proportional to the seriousness of the offense. The employer also should correct the effects of the harassment by, for example, restoring leave taken because of the harassment and expunging negative evaluations in the employee’s personnel file that arose from the harassment.
Taking steps to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace not only promotes a healthy and productive work environment, but it may also help an employer defend against liability in the event the employer is held responsible for unlawful harassment.
If you receive a complaint or otherwise learn of alleged sexual harassment in the workplace, you must investigate promptly and thoroughly.
Click here to download our checklist for conducting a sexual harassment investigation.
For additional training on harassment prevention, register for our upcoming webinar “Creating a Climate of Workplace Respect” on April 24.
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 about these services, and to speak with one of our sales representatives.
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