How Can Employers Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

October 13th, 2016

sexual harassment

Last week we discussed what employees should know about workplace harassment, but employers also need to be aware of their role in preventing harassment in South Jersey.

What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment is “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” Such harassment creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive workplace environment.

A harasser can be the person’s supervisor, manager, or coworker. This is why you must have protocols in place that allow employees to make complaints to someone other than their supervisor or HR manager.

While both men and women can both experience harassment), statistics show that women are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace, filing 79% of all complaints.

How Can You Prevent Harassment?

  • Make your sexual harassment policy clear – Your policy should be included in the employee handbook and should:
    • define sexual harassment
    • state clearly that sexual harassment will not be tolerated
    • state that employees who violate this policy will be disciplined and/or fired
    • lay out a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints
    • state that all complaints will be investigated fully, and
    • state there is zero tolerance for retaliation against anyone who files a sexual harassment complaint
  • Train your employees – At least once a year you should hold training sessions for all employees. These sessions should cover what sexual harassment is; your complaint procedure; that all employees have the right to a harassment-free workplace; and that employees should not be afraid to file complaints. In a recent survey, it was found that 66.6% of employees were not aware of a company policy on how to address sexual harassment, and only 50% knew who they could discuss a complaint with.
  • Train your supervisors and managers – You should also hold an annual training session for upper-level management that is separate from the employee sessions. This session should educate supervisors and managers about how to investigate and handle harassment complaints.
  • Engage with your employees – Be in the habit of periodically checking up with your employees. Ask them for their input on the work environment and if anything could be improved. Take a visual inspection of the workplace, looking for any offensive posters or notes. Keeping the lines of communication open with your employees and supervisors is key to fostering a healthy work environment.
  • Take all complaints seriously – If someone registers a sexual harassment complaint, investigate the matter immediately. If the complaint is true, take swift and effective action. Even if the complaint is invalid, your employees will know you are serious about your policy.

Know It All: Providing Expert Investigations in South Jersey

From employee misconduct investigations to training sessions on workplace harassment in South Jersey, Know It All has the expertise your company needs. Contact us for more information on our South Jersey corporate training and investigation services.

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