Managing Sexual Harassment

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Sexual harassment in the workplace has unfortunately been a prevalent topic in the news lately – with top tech firms such as Uber amongst the latest headlines.  Sexual harassment is a serious offense, and should never be tolerated in any work environment.  Ensuring a safe and comfortable workplace is crucial to avoid any form of harassment amongst employees.

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a person’s job or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.  This can range from offensive jokes or comments, to inappropriate or suggestive touching.

Below are some strategies to prevent and address sexual harassment in your workplace:

1.  Adopt a clear sexual harassment policy –   Your employee handbook should have a policy dedicated to preventing sexual harassment. That policy should include the definition of sexual harassment, explain there is no toleration for sexual harassment, and state that there will be disciplinary actions for any offenders. Be sure to give detailed instructions on how to file a sexual harassment complaint and state that there will be a full investigation on any complaint received. 

2.  Train all employees, supervisors, & managers – At least once a year, train all employees, supervisors, & managers on what sexual harassment is, what the complaint and review process looks like and the repercussions for such behavior.

3.  Monitor the workplace – From time to time ask your employees about the work environment and ask for their opinion on their level of comfort. Examine the workplace to make sure there is no inappropriate posters or bulletins around the office. Reiterate that the lines of communication are always open.

4.  Take all complaints seriously – If an employee complains about any form of sexual harassment, act accordingly and immediately to investigate the situation. Take action and follow through with disciplinary actions when needed.

All employees are entitled to a safe environment without the threat or act of sexual harassment.  Whether an email, joke or the overarching culture of an organization it is the onus of the company and its executives to address and take action against inappropriate behavior.  Create a safe work environment for everyone!

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