A lack of a formal policy for handling sexual harassment in businesses doesn’t mean that a business owner is exempt from liability. Although federal law exempts small businesses with less than 15 employees from the requirement, it’s in their best interest to establish one.
The fact is state laws may have smaller thresholds for requiring a formal policy. The financial and reputational costs are high to risk running a business without one. A single lawsuit may cost financial loss and damage to your brand. It might affect the overall standing of the company.
Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances. It’s an act where one person feels violated depending on how she takes the advances or foul language done by another person. Below are some of the frequent sexual harassment cases you might observe that happen in the workplace.
- Quid pro quo is a type of sexual harassment where one is forced to do sexual acts in favor of something. It could be the boss will give the employee a raise, promotion, or bonus if the employee will follow what he wants.
- A hostile working environment is another type of sexual harassment where an employee experiences or feels violated in the workplace. It may be frequent sexual jokes or displaying pictures that affect her work mentally and emotionally.
- Offensive jokes and comments that insinuate sexual meaning. Frequent joking and little comments that imply sexually could harm a person mentally. It may affect her work and worries each time she hears the same comments.
- Touching that happened only once but became an unlawful act because it passed a private area. It is an incident that shows misconduct and is highly subjected to disciplinary action.
- Non-sexual touch that causes discomfort. One single touch on the back or shoulder may cause discomfort to a person and that means it is not welcome. Persistence in doing that would mean an act of harassment if the person feels being violated.
Ways to Protect Your Employees From Sexual Harassment
Your employees are a vital part of your business that needs safety and proper benefits from you as their employer. They are your responsibility and you need to take into consideration how to weigh the circumstances when a case of sexual harassment suddenly arises.
Creating policies must be partnered with strict implementation and monitoring. It doesn’t just end with forums and seminars that tackle this sensitive topic or a copy of the written policy to read. It needs to reinforce the importance and repercussions it entails to both parties and the company as well.
- Clearly define and understand what sexual harassment is. Help your employees fully understand the concept of preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. The first thing to do is to explain and cite examples showing harassment. Discussions at work must include the misconducts that lead to this and the effects it may cause to a person’s morale.
- Distribute Company Sexual Harassment Policy to all employees. This policy should explain sexual harassment and clearly state that your company does not permit any form of it. It is best to come up with a written policy that has a significant portion of sexual harassment. It must state the levels of violation and the corresponding penalties that everyone must read and comply with.
- Conduct comprehensive training for all employees including supervisors and managers. You can hire experts to conduct training to the employees regarding the importance of sexual harassment awareness and its punishments.
Include ways how to reject harassment, how to file complaints, and who and where to go to when harassment is made. You may even list down all the feral law agencies that can help them if they need to.
Training for supervisors and managers must involve expressing their authority to do immediate actions when a complaint occurs. They must know how to handle the case ensuring everyone is safe from this kind of wrongful act.
Investigate thoroughly as this will be the basis of the case of sexual harassment.
The details would decide whether the complaint is valid to push through. You must act right away when a complaint is made and practice respect for each party’s privacy or confidentiality of the case.
- Err on the Side of Caution. When having doubts if it is an act of sexual harassment, it is always wise to err on the side of caution. This is why it is important to realize the difference between sexual advances and its opposite.
- Determine if the act was actually sexual harassment by deciding if the act was of sexual nature and unwelcome by the accuser. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination, states that sexual conduct is unwelcome when the victim does not solicit or incite the conduct in question, or the conduct is considered offensive or undesirable by the victim. Encourage everyone to directly tell the person harassing them to stop and state the discomfort. It is everybody’s right to stay comfortable in the workplace.
- Employers wishing to determine if the conduct was unwelcome need to consider every aspect of the circumstance, including the victim’s speech, clothing, and whether he or she participated in the conduct voluntarily. Each of these components does not necessarily disagree or establish a sexual harassment claim, but together may invalidate or validate a claim.
Provide protection from the retaliation of the accused.
Most of the employees are afraid to voice out their worries and complaints. They fear losing their job and becoming the topic in the workplace. It would encourage them to speak if they knew you would protect them. The harasser may get back at them once they start to complain.
How to Protect Your Business From Sexual Harassment
Avail of a sexual harassment insurance policy. If things go to worst and you cannot handle the case, sexual harassment insurance policy will save your back. The cost of a lawsuit is too high that it might rob off your money. Aside from this, productivity in the workplace is affected as well as the good culture that revolves around it.
Insurance like Employment Practices Liability Insurance can be bundled with your existing business policy. It would pay for the defense and court fees and also settlements with the complainant. The burden of harassment claims consume so much of your time. The damage it would make to the reputation of your company is enough reason to purchase insurance that will secure your business.
The effect of sexual harassment on the employees is something to be given immediate action and concern. Your effort to protect them from sexual content would reflect your company’s character and image. Their safety would also mean protecting your business from unforeseen problems that will affect the essential components of the company to grow. Thus, your role constitutes the effective implementation of safety against harassment in the workplace.
For any inquiries or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact us.