Sexual harassment is one of the most common forms of workplace harassment.
According to a recent report, 56% of employees have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in their places of work. Sexual harassment also accounts for 50% of workplace complaints. When left to flourish, sexual harassment reduces employee morale and productivity, increases staff turnover, and makes the organization vulnerable to lawsuits.
For this reason, an employer should create and maintain a workplace environment free from unwelcome sexual advances or conduct.
Read on for four ways to combat sexual harassment in your workplace to protect employees from psychological damage and the company from legal implications.
1. Create a clear sexual harassment policy
Ensure your organization has a devoted anti-harassment policy, and the staff familiarizes with it. A sexual harassment policy shows your employees that any form of sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the organization.
An effective sexual harassment policy should:
- Explain what sexual harassment is
- Inform employees that you will not tolerate inappropriate sexual advances
- Provide information on relevant sexual harassment reporting channels
- Define complaint investigation procedure
- Establish that you will discipline or terminate anyone found guilty of sexual harassment
2. Make reporting sexual harassment incidents easier
If you provide a single method of reporting sexual harassment cases, such as speaking in person with the human resource manager, some employees may feel intimidated or embarrassed to make complaints.
Consider offering multiple ways to report sexual harassment cases to encourage employees to speak up while making them feel safe. You could have them report by phone, or via questionnaire or email.
3. Invest in employee training
Be sure to provide anti-harassment training at least once a year. Training does not only help combat unwanted advances and inappropriate behaviors. It also empowers employees who may experience sexual harassment in the workplace to recognize and report these incidents to the relevant authority.
Ensure your training sessions educate employees on what sexual harassment is, describe the complaint or reporting procedure, explain the staff’s right to a sexual harassment-free workplace, and encourage them to voice their concerns.
Also, be sure to schedule separate training sessions for managers and supervisors. These sessions should define the common sexual harassment behaviors and teach them how to handle any complaints brought to their attention.
4. Handle sexual harassment concerns and allegations promptly
If you hear gossip about a sexual harassment occurrence or an employee files a formal complaint, ensure you deal with it as soon as possible. The last thing you want is to make the employee or victim feel disregarded.
Be sure to conduct investigations, speak with the victim and the employee being accused of sexual harassment, interview witnesses, and use the information provided to make a judgment.
You could even present the evidence gathered to an attorney to ensure you make an unbiased decision. Remember also to keep accurate and complete documentation of your investigation. This helps you protect yourself if an employee is unhappy with your verdict and decides to take additional legal action.
Whether or not your country has laws prohibiting workplace sexual harassment, you should take adequate steps and be proactive in maintaining a harassment-free environment.
Invest in employee training, create harassment policies, make reporting more straightforward, and deal with concerns and allegations immediately to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace to improve morale and productivity.