Discuss preventing and dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace
Sexual Harassment is unlawful discrimination against a person with respect to that person's compensation, terms of employment, conditions of employment, or privileges of employment, because of or on account of the person's gender.
How should one behave when such a problem arise? The first step is to ask the offender to stop. Be very firm and clear in request and make it very obvious that person’s actions are offensive. At this time, or even as soon as the actions begin, one should document everything that takes place. Make sure to note the date and time of the offense, as well as what happened. If there are any actions that are on paper (i.e. if the harasser sends an email asking you for sexual favors) keep a copy of those in file as evidence. If the harasser does not stop, the next step should be to file the guidelines that employer has in place. It is the responsibility of employer to have an effective sexual harassment in the workplace policy in place. They should have provided training to all the employees. Usually the first step in their guidelines involves setting up a meeting with the director of human resources and they will interview you to begin an investigation. One also have the option of obtaining legal counseling outside the office. If one do choose to do this, please research individual state guidelines and the remedies under civil law.
There exist two part test to be used by employers in defending themselves against a sexual harassment lawsuit. *
The employer needs to show that they took reasonable care to prevent and correct any sexual harassment behavior within their workplace. *
The employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.
Here are some steps employers can take to avoid sexual harassment lawsuits:
1.) To organize a sexual harassment/discrimination policy! The policy should communicate that the company is taking a "zero tolerance" approach toward sexual harassment. Have an attorney review it, and make sure it gets out to all employees. Have the employees sign it.
2.) Provide different routes that employees can take to file complaints; i.e., calling a hotline, contacting the human resource department, or by contacting their supervisor.
3.) Conduct sexual harassment training, even if it is only composed of reading material or watching a video, something is better then no training at all.
4.) Conduct yearly meetings with your supervisors to review the sexual harassment policy, and to make sure that they understand that an employee does not need to suffer negative consequences in order to make a claim of sexual harassment.
5.) Conduct a yearly sexual harassment survey among your employees.
6.) Treat same-sex harassment, and men reporting harassment, the same as you would for a woman reporting her male supervisor being sexually inappropriate.
7.) Always document the results of any sexual harassment complaint or investigation. Not only document the results, but document any corrective action that you asked the employee or supervisor to take.
9.) Inform all employees that it is their obligation to report sexual harassment that they either experience or witness.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious event. By ignoring the situation or assuming it will stop on its own, you are leaving the offender to approach others in your office. Understand your rights and take action!