Sexual harassment is not only unlawful, it also creates a hostile working environment. It’s incumbent upon management to take the proper steps to discourage sexual harassment and to help workers who make complaints about improper behavior. The Balance offers the following information to help business owners, as well as employees, address this contentious issue.
The first step is to create an inclusive and positive work environment for all workers. This starts with your employee handbook, which should have information on what constitutes harassment. For example, harassment can involve physical contact, jokes, requests for dates, sending pictures or sexually-charged messages, gestures, and displaying sexual pictures or photos within the place of work. The handbook should also include your workplace’s official sexual harassment policy, as well as a policy on general harassment. Lastly, make sure employees are fully aware of how investigations into harassment allegations will take place.
Harassment allegations are often made known to managers and supervisors first. From here, the human resource department should be informed as soon as possible so the formal investigation can begin. Human resource officials usually interview both parties to gain an understanding of what occurred. They may also talk to any witnesses present when the incident took place. On its own, acting fast when it comes to sexual harassment allegations acts as a great deterrent.
Keep in mind that sexual harassment can occur to anyone at a workplace. It can happen to both men and women, and it can even occur between two members of the same sex. Additionally, sexual harassment doesn’t always involve promises of promotions or raises. In many cases, it happens among peers, which is just as serious of an occurrence as when a supervisor harasses a subordinate. If the matter is not dealt with by the company in a satisfactory manner, an employee can report the incident to the EEOC or even file a lawsuit.