Preventing Sexual Harassment At Work

As an employer, you have an obligation to run a business that is free of sexual harassment. This is your legal responsibility, but it also makes good business sense. If you permit sexual harassment to go on in your workplace, you will wind up paying big time in terms of low employee morale, minimized productivity, and lawsuits.

Sexual harassment can be any sexual advance or conduct that isn’t welcome on the job that can create an intimidating, hostile, or aggressive work environment. If there’s conduct of a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable it could have the potential to lead to sexual harassment.

It is obvious that sexual harassment can come in various forms. Here are some examples of sexual harassment: when a supervisor implies that an employee has to sleep with them to keep a job, when a sales clerk makes harsh remarks about a female customer to his coworkers, an office manager is made uncomfortable by co-workers that regularly tell sexually explicit jokes, a receptionist’s coworkers belittle her and refer to her by sexist or demeaning terms, an employee sends emails to coworkers that have sexual jokes and language.

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, manager, or coworker. An employer may even be liable for harassment by a non-employee (such as a vendor or customer), depending on the circumstances. Sexual harassment goes both ways between genders, at least in theory: Men can sexually harass women, and women can sexually harass men. However, statistics show that most sexual harassment claims and charges are by women reporting that they’ve been sexually harassed by men.

People of the same sex can also be sexually harassed by each other, as long as the harassment is of a heterosexual nature. If a person’s coworkers are always telling them sexually explicit jokes, or showing them sexual pictures, this person might feel uneasy especially if they are married. This type of behavior can constitute as sexual harassment.

There are various ways that you can reduce the risk of sexual harassment occurring in your workplace. Come up with or adopt a specific sexual harassment policy. You should have a policy in you employee handbook devoted to sexual harassment. That policy should: have a definition of sexual harassment, state in no uncertain terms that you won’t permit sexual harassment, state that you will discipline or fire anyone who breaks these rules, set out a clear method for filing sexual harassment complaints. Keep track of your workplace and employees frequently. Is there any offensive posters or notes in the building? Talk to the supervisors and managers about what is going on around the office or work space. Keep the lines of communication open.

You need to take all complaints seriously. If a person complains about sexual harassment, you must act immediately to investigate the complaint. If the complaint winds up being valid, you should have a swift and effective response.

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