Employers must be proactive to prevent sexual harassment

You may think that when sexual harassment happens in the workplace, it is down to one bad apple amongst the workforce. Yet much of what happens in a workplace is down to the culture built by the employer.

Businesses can reduce the chance of sexual harassment by being proactive. Claiming they do not know how to address the issue is no excuse. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has highlighted five things that companies need to prevent and deal with harassment among their employees:

  1. Leaders committed to stopping it: Silence can speak volumes. If a company fails to talk about sexual harassment, employees may assume it does not care. The bosses must dedicate time and resources to the matter.
  2. A clear policy to prevent it: There must be written policies making clear that harassment is not acceptable in the company. They should define what actions constitute harassment to remove any excuses for people saying they did not know.
  3. Effective training: Training needs to be provided for all employees and should be tailored to each level. For instance, employees need to learn what is and is not acceptable and how to report it if they see it. Managers need to understand how to deal with cases of it amongst their subordinates.
  4. A system for complaints: There should be no confusion about the procedures for reporting harassment. If there is, many cases could go unreported.
  5. Accountability: The buck must stop somewhere. Bosses need to accept and make clear that if harassment does occur, something in their system has failed.

As an employee, you have the right to a safe workplace, free from sexual harassment. You are within your rights to speak up if you feel your employer is ignoring the issue.

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