7 Tips to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Jul 21, 2022 | Business Insurance

43% of men and a staggering 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime. It’s a real problem, not one you want to occur in your workplace. In an era where people are becoming more aware of what is and isn’t acceptable, there’s little excuse for sexual harassment to be a problem still. Sadly, it occurs everywhere still — including in the workplace. It’s vital to foster an environment that isn’t friendly to harassment. And make sure everyone feels safe and secure in the office. So what exactly can you do to prevent sexual harassment? Read on and follow these tips to foster the best work environment possible. This is for the sake of both your company and team!

1. Describe in Detail What Sexual Harassment Is to Prevent Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is behavior with a wide scope. The many types of sexual harassment include:

  • Making unwanted comments that are sexual in nature
  • Requesting sexual favors or acts
  • Taking advantage of a power dynamic

In essence, it is any unwanted behavior that leans on being sexual and illegal.

Although education is far more widespread today than it might have been a few years ago, and education is only growing, no one must be left in the dark. Whether this is by mistake or on purpose, which can happen. Set clear rules about what constitutes sexual harassment, and make sure they encompass as much as possible.

A company’s sexual harassment policy should be as clear as possible. This is even though the behavior itself can be so varied.

Ensure everyone is aware of what is considered sexual harassment in your workplace. But, it’s also worth mentioning to them that the list likely is not all-encompassing. Any unwanted sexual behavior towards a colleague or employee should be treated as sexual harassment. This is regardless of whether it was specified in the policy.

2. Provide Training

Sexual harassment training for managers and other employees is the key to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

For employees, the training should ensure that any behavior cannot be construed as harassment. Ensure everyone is aware of what is and isn’t acceptable in the workplace. This is by showing examples and encouraging questions to be asked. If everyone has a solid idea of what is harassment and what isn’t, it can’t be used as an excuse later.

“I didn’t know” is all too common, and it’s not acceptable.

For managers, the training should also concentrate on recognizing the signs of sexual harassment. Some victims may be too flustered to speak up or claim they don’t want to cause a fuss. Sadly, many people have been conditioned to stay silent when victimized. For example, only 230 of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported.

You need to advocate for your employee who may be the victims of such behavior. No one likes a boss who’s always hovering over their employees. But you can’t risk your managers walking away and being utterly blind to what’s happening.

3. Lay Out the Consequences

If you have employee training and a defined sexual harassment policy, you must lay out the consequences for those who break it. People will take advantage if there are no consequences, even if it’s supposedly against the rules. Instead, make sure they know exactly what will happen if they break those rules and stick to them.

You might want to be vague and state that disciplinary action will be taken and then decide on a case-by-case basis with severity. Does an unwanted flirty e-mail constitute a warning or suspension? Is a lewd comment about someone’s outfit enough to have them fired on the spot?

Some companies take a zero-tolerance approach where anyone engaging in such behavior is instantly fired, and some operate on a warning system. You should do what feels best for the company, but the consequences should be fast and have a lasting impact on anyone else who might have thought about doing the same thing.

If the actions are severe and have affected another employee notably, the consequence should likely be termination.

4. Make it Easy for Reports to Be Created

It should be easy for reports and complaints to be made against those who might be experiencing sexual harassment. Ensure your HR department is set up so anyone can go there to make a complaint and make all resources available.

It’s also important that any HR employees or anyone dealing with these complaints are approachable themselves. Provide training to ensure they can balance being professional and empathetic when handling situations. Some employees may be unintentionally cold or find themselves going in the opposite direction, where they’re enraged by the complaints.

As difficult as these reports can be, anyone dealing with them should be able to lay out the process clearly and remain cool and composed in the face of sexual harassment.

5. Check in With Employees

If an employee isn’t coming forward on their own and the harassment itself is private, any manager should always take the time to check in with them.

One-on-one meetings with employees are a great idea. Highlighting their progress makes employees feel valued and comfortable, so they might be more willing to open up about anything wrong. Aside from the many other benefits one-on-one meetings have, like improvements, managers can always ask directly if there’s anything an employee would like to discuss with them.

Sometimes it takes that little push, and by visibly caring about teammates, managers can make a massive difference in the fight against sexual harassment. This benefits the people they’re working with and demonstrates that the company truly cares and enhances its reputation.

After all, the last thing you want is for the company to end up with a sexual harassment lawsuit.

6. Make Sure Standards Are Clear Outside of Work Hours

Setting standards inside work hours is easy, but it’s important to ensure they don’t slip outside.

In the modern age, it’s commonplace for employees to keep in touch through social media, nights out for drinks and dinner, and anything else. It might be wise to ensure you have some policies for such things as a company.

It’s very hard to act on something that happens outside of work hours, and it’s often not wise to monitor your employees — they need a work-life balance, after all. Still, you should ensure everyone behaves appropriately, even when socializing outside work hours.

It’s fine to let your hair down and be friends with your teammates, but it’s not an excuse to make unwanted comments or advances. Unfortunately, it’s all too common — but it shouldn’t be.

7. Encourage Everyone to Have a Zero-Tolerance Policy

Some people still don’t take sexual harassment seriously. They think it’s a joke or that people are too easily offended.

The truth is that sexual harassment can deeply damage someone, affecting not only their job but their life. It should be emphasized that everyone should have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to reporting it and letting the organization deal with it.

They shouldn’t join in or defend their friends. Team members, managers, and those even higher up in the company should all take the same view — that it’s unacceptable. It should also be made abundantly clear that it’s unacceptable to be anything else than appalled by such behavior.

Prevent Sexual Harassment by Being Proactive — Your Employees Will Thank You

It can seem almost impossible to prevent sexual harassment sometimes. In this age, when social media is so prominent, and people are in contact outside of work, monitoring everything is difficult. You don’t want to be the kind of company that’s always looking at everything their employees do, so how can you take a firm and practical stance against harassment?

The truth is you don’t have to monitor everything. Just keep a firm eye on what you can and ensure you’re supportive of victims and encouraging when making reports.

Fostering a great environment will mean you don’t have to monitor everything. Hopefully, most people will come forward on their own.

We hope you learned a lot regarding how to prevent sexual harassment. Check out the rest of our blog for more workplace tips or our sexual harassment and workplace violence course that may be useful to you and your employees! For more information or inquiries, send us a message, call us, or click the chat bubble on the bottom right side of the screen. We hope to hear from you soon at Team AIS in Denver, CO!

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