Sexual Harassment: The Duty to Transform the Workplace
In the wake of the #MeToo movement and other high profile sexual harassment scandals, businesses are taking a closer look at their sexual harassment policies and company culture.
Many employers are now taking steps to proactively address workplace sexual harassment and preventative measures. In an ideal world, employees would not feel afraid to report incidents of sexual harassment or be fearful that coming forward will have negative repercussions. Everyone should be able to work in a safe environment free from unwanted advances, propositions, or derogatory comments about a person’s sex. Unfortunately, this is hardly the case for many employees in every industry — even some businesses with progressive cultures that publicly support gender equity.
It is up to all employers to foster environments where employees trust their supervisors and feel comfortable reporting unacceptable behavior without fear of reprisal.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, inappropriate touching, hugging or any other type of physical or verbal behaviour of a sexual nature that makes someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe at work.
Sexual harassment can happen in person or online through emails, texts and social media. Sexual harassment does not always involve a supervisor or manager. Anyone in the workplace can harass another person, including colleagues who are at the same level as the victim.
It is important to remember that someone who has been sexually harassed is not responsible for stopping the behaviour.
The Importance of Having a Clear Harassment Policy
Businesses have a legal obligation to protect employees from sexual harassment, but what happens when an employer fails to do so? In some cases, an employee may be able to take legal action against the company for failing to meet its legal responsibilities under the jurisdiction’s discrimination laws.
In these situations, if the company has a clear anti-harassment policy in place, they have a better chance of defending themselves against allegations of negligence. The first step to creating a safe work environment is having a well-defined sexual harassment policy in place that clearly outlines what constitutes inappropriate behavior.
The policy should include information about who is responsible for reporting incidents of sexual harassment, what types of conduct are considered inappropriate, and the disciplinary action that will be taken against those found responsible.
Train Employees on Your Firm’s Anti-Harassment Policies
After a clear sexual harassment policy is in place, companies should actively train employees on the policy. This means making sexual harassment training a regular part of your onboarding process, as well as an annual or bi-annual company meeting.
Regular sexual harassment training is particularly important in industries where a lot of off-the-cuff socialising occurs at conferences, trade shows, and other business-related events. Here, sexual harassment may be more likely to occur because of the close quarters and relaxed environment, as well as the increased consumption of alcohol.
Several companies have created online sexual harassment training courses to help employees navigate these issues. You can also find online sexual harassment training videos through YouTube. You may also be able to find sexual harassment training in your industry through government or non-profit organizations.
Provide an Easy Way for Employees to Report Incidents of Abuse
Businesses should provide an easy and accessible way for employees to report sexual harassment incidents. This could be a hotline, an email address, or a written complaint form that allows employees to report any incidents of sexual harassment confidentially.
This type of reporting system is essential for a number of reasons.
First, it allows employees to report harassment without fear of reprisal.
Second, it gives the company a chance to investigate the incident and take appropriate disciplinary action against the employee responsible.
Third, it provides companies with the opportunity to create a record of incidents of sexual harassment that they can refer to if they are ever sued for failing to take action.
Keeping a record of this type of data can help businesses prove they have taken sexual harassment seriously and have taken appropriate action to prevent the problem from recurring.
Sexual harassment can happen in any workplace and to anyone. It is the responsibility of employers to create a safe and inclusive work environment in which all employees feel comfortable reporting incidents of harassment.
To do so, employers must clearly define what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and actively train employees on their policies. Additionally, businesses must provide an easy and accessible way for employees to report harassment, as well as keep accurate records of any complaints filed and investigations.
Sexual harassment defined
If you have had a sexual harassment complaint lodged call Jolasers Investigations to discuss how they can assist.