Creating a working environment that is welcoming for all employees, no matter their gender, is the responsibility of every employer. For HR teams, this means proactively working to create an inclusive culture but also creating a robust reporting process for when sexual harassment at work does occur.
To help employers, Paycor are offering a checklist of actions to take in order to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.
Preventing Sexual Harassment at Work
Your people can never reach their full potential if they are worried about suffering from workplace sexual harassment, are subject to quid pro quo agreements or are victims of sexual assault. It’s also a compliance issue: gender discrimination in the workplace was outlawed by the Civil Rights act of 1964 and is enforced by the Equal Opportunity Commission.
However, while compliance with federal law and state law is essential, an employer’s first priority should be the safety and success of their employees.
Here’s where to start:
- Create a Sexual Harassment Policy
- Clearly Communicate Acceptable Conduct
- Offer Employee Training
- Establish a Robust Reporting Process
- Protect Victims
- Ensure You Don’t Incentivize Silence
- Take it Seriously
- Survey Employees
- Make A Commitment to a Positive Workplace Culture
- Regularly Reassess
Your first step is to create and implement a sexual harassment policy establishing exactly what conduct is not acceptable, and establishes a robust process for victims to report harassment and file complaints.
Having a policy isn’t enough—it needs to be clearly communicated so that all employees know the standards of behavior that are expected of them and are aware of the consequences if they fall short of those standard.
To be confident that all employees fully understand your policy, you may want to offer employee training on the subject. Regular training in multiple formats can help employees understand exactly what sexual harassment is, how to spot it and, importantly, how to avoid it.
Employees should know to file complaints to a relevant supervisor or HR representative as soon as possible after an incident occurs. It is then the responsibility of the HR team to take action immediately—all reports must be taken seriously, and investigations carried out professionally and without bias. Depending on the seniority of the accused individual, it may be necessary for the investigation to be carried out by a third party. Exact descriptions of the accusations should be carefully documented, along the dates and location when they occurred, and the names of anyone who may have witnessed the incidents. If the accusations include potential criminality, the police should be informed.
The most important step of a robust reporting process is to ensure that there is no retaliation against those who complain. At the same time, those accused should be protected until an investigation has been carried out.
While an absence of complaints could be the sign of a healthy workplace culture, it could also mean victims are afraid to tell their stories. HR teams have to be careful to encourage complaints, rather than rewarding teams which appear to have none.
Often, it’s not important what you do but how you do it. When creating and implementing a sexual harassment strategy, employers should be sure to show that they are taking it seriously and not just box ticking. This requires an investment in time and money to ensure that those who are responsible for effecting positive change have the power and tools they need.
It’s natural that victims of sexual harassment may feel unable to report their situation to superiors. Anonymous employee surveys offer HR teams a chance to learn how employees feel about workplace culture and whether they think sexual harassment goes unpunished. If they do, you may need to revise your policy.
In addition to a strong policy against sexual harassment, there should be a commitment at an organizational level to encourage respectful relationships between all employees.
Carrying out all these steps should result in meaningful change, but employers cannot get complacent. You should regularly reassess your measures and improvement.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Checklist
Businesses should be doing all they can to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to create a safe and hospitable environment for all employees. To make sure you are following best practices, download and use Paycor’s free sexual harassment prevention checklist.
Download Sexual Harassment Prevention Template
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