Sexual harassment is not limited to demands for sexual favors. It also includes permitting a work environment that is hostile or offensive to employees because of their gender. Make all employees aware of your policy prohibiting sexual harassment and specify steps to be taken to bring it to management’s attention.
Below are 10 tips that will help you in dealing with this issue in the workplace:
1. Establish a formal policy prohibiting sexual harassment. Clearly indicate all actions that could be construed as harassment and specify what steps employees should take if they are harassed. Appoint a senior executive to administer the policy.
2. Publicize the policy through bulletins, articles in the company newspaper, regularly scheduled meetings, and training programs.
3. Make it easy for complainants to bring matters to the attention of management. Post notices throughout your offices detailing who to go to and how to do it. Make sure that all employees know that there will be no retaliation against persons bringing complaints against anybody in the organization, regardless of rank or position.
4. Investigate all complaints no matter how trivial or unjustified they appear to you. Keep written records of all findings including memos, reports of interviews, and statements from the complainant, the person accused, and witnesses.
5. Never terminate or threaten complainants or potential complainants.
6. Don’t make rash decisions. Analyze all the facts. Consult your attorney (remember that the matter may wind up in court).
7. Take action. If the complaint is justified, correct the situation. Depending on the case, this may include requiring the harasser to apologize, ordering a cessation of the acts that led to the complaint, adjusting the salary, promoting or changing the working conditions of the persons who have suffered, or, in flagrant or repeated offenses, firing the harasser.
8. If the investigation finds the complaint was not justified, explain the decision carefully and diplomatically to the complainant. Keep in mind that if he or she is not satisfied, a charge can still be filed with appropriate government agencies or brought to court.
9. Don’t look for easy ways out. Transferring the harasser to another department may solve the immediate problem, but if the harasser repeats the offense in the new assignment, the situation is compounded.
10. If a formal complaint is made to the EEOC or a state equivalent, even if you feel the complaint is groundless, treat it seriously. By following these 10 guidelines, not only will you will reduce your chances of having sexual harassment charges filed against your company, but also you will improve the morale in the company because employees will see that you take this situation seriously.
Dealing With Sexual Harassment By Others Outside Of Your Department
Suppose that a salesman who comes into your office makes a point of telling off-color jokes to the women who work there. Some of them think that he’s hilarious, but you notice the look of disgust on the faces of others. Although no complaints have been made, you see that the behavior is creating an offensive work environment.
The sales person doesn’t work for your company, but you still have an obligation to do something about it. The courts have ruled that an employer is responsible for the offensive behavior of all its employees (regardless of whether they’re in management) and even non-employees when the employer or its agents (that’s you, in this case) know about it or should have known about it.
Speak to the person on whom that sales rep calls. Tell him or her to discuss the matter with the sales rep. If the undesirable behavior continues, the company has an obligation to tell the salesperson that it cannot continue doing business with him. Note that your company is responsible not only when it knows about the offensive behavior but also when it should have known about it. This point is a delicate one. How are you supposed to know about everything that might happen? You can’t, of course, but if you’re observant, you should know a great deal about what transpires.