Discriminatory sexual harassment violates the Civil Rights Act. It can damage employee morale, trust, and productivity. Recurring incidents and improper internal handling can turn your work environment hostile. Recognizing unacceptable interpersonal conduct and establishing policies to prevent and address this delicate issue will protect your staff while helping your company avoid lawsuits.
Sexual harassment happens when one staffer is:
- Making repeated, unwelcome moves on a co-worker
- Requesting carnal favors
- Directing other physical or verbal intimacies at a colleague against her or his wishes
It occurs when rejection of or submission to sexual actions affects a staffer’s employment implicitly or explicitly, interferes with that person’s job performance unreasonably, or renders the work environment intimidating, offensive, or hostile.
- Delivering unwanted jokes and gestures, offensive remarks about attire, and objectionable banter and comments
- Initiating bodily contact including touching, patting, or scratching a colleague’s back, grasping an employee’s waist, or obstructing a co-worker’s ability to break free
- Continuing uninvited flirting and repeated date requests that the victim rejects
- Posting or sending sexually oriented pictures or emails
- Displaying lewd pictures, posters, or objects
- Playing suggestive music
To ensure employee personal space and safety, your organization needs to create:
- General and sexual harassment policies
- Dating regulations between superiors and reporting staffers
- Complaint reporting process
- Investigation procedures for reported charges
Include the above details in your employee handbook and post them around your worksite. Inform team members at all levels about those practices. Reiterate that your firm does not tolerate any harassment and investigates all complaints. National PEO’s sexual harassment workshops will teach your staff to identify occurrences that constitute inappropriate workplace behavior. Valuable information and tools will help your company avoid claim liabilities.
Your firm must take immediate action when staffers share sexual harassment accounts with Human Resource (HR) personnel, supervisors, or even other employees. Addressing all cases promptly, following appropriate steps, and disciplining perpetrators and false informants severely will protect your company from lawsuits. Make everyone aware of these facts:
- Pursuers and targets may be any gender combination.
- Victims should tell offenders to stop unwelcome advances.
- Employees can accuse anyone connected to their work environment including executives, managers, supervisors, co-workers, peers, suppliers, vendors, and clients.
- Inappropriate conduct can affect witnesses or anyone hearing about earlier incidents. While a boss and reporting staffer are having a sexual relationship, for instance, other personnel can instigate claims if that employee receives preferential treatment.
- Workers should follow your company’s complaint reporting procedures.
- Accusers do not need to demonstrate adverse employment effects including salary decreases, transfers, and discharges.
As soon as your organization learns that any team member is undergoing sexual harassment, it has ethical, legal, and workforce relations obligations to conduct a thorough investigation. Follow these important steps:
- Assign responsibility for each complaint to someone with historical company and staff knowledge.
- Base every investigation’s plan on existing knowledge including the case’s key players and situations.
- Advise the complainant that you followed appropriate protocols by reporting the general circumstances or a specific incident to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or Office of Civil Rights (OCR).
- Inform that employee about your no retaliation policy. Request immediate notice if any ongoing harassment or implied or direct retribution occurs.
- Ask the claimant to make a statement. While listening respectfully, take notes on relevant facts including dates, times, contexts, and witnesses.
- Tell the suspect about the complaint filing. Request patience during your investigation and promise to be fair, just, and thorough on behalf of both petitioner and accused. Advise that your company does not tolerate any unethical or retaliatory actions.
- Interview witnesses courteously. Pose open-ended questions. Note facts that confirm or refute the victim’s allegations.
- Question the perpetrator. Use the same polite listening approach you granted the target and witnesses.
- Assess collected evidence to determine if the charged worker harassed the informant sexually.
- Discipline verified offender or complaint fraud appropriately. If necessary, make work, location, or situation adjustments fairly for everyone’s comfort, safety, and productivity.
- Do not single out the victim with different treatment than other personnel receive. Resume dealing with the accuser how you did before the claim.
- Prevent further incidents by documenting follow-ups with the complainant or wrongly charged staffer.
- Keep complete, accurate records in case any employee who disagrees with an investigation’s outcome takes legal action.