How to Deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

According to the Huffington Post, 1 out of every 3 women are sexually harassed at work. When someone comes to you, man or woman, with a sexual harassment complaint, as a HR manager, it is your responsibility to investigate the situation and get to the bottom of it. Information regarding sexual harassment complaints can come to you in a number of ways, including gossip from other employees, from a friend of the sexual harassment victim, or someone who has witnessed sexual harassment behavior. Know how to identify and handle these sorts of situations in order to ensure a comfortable work environment and avoid a costly lawsuit. Our HR consulting firm is here to give you examples of sexual harassment to better help you identify it and tips on how to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace  when it occurs.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment applies to any unwelcome sexual advance in the workplace. This is clearly a broad definition, so here are a few examples of what constitutes as sexual harassment.

• Offensive comments being made to belittle an employee based on their gender, "Shut up woman."

• Inappropriate sexual jokes being made in the workplace

• Asking an employee about their sexual history

• Fondling a co-worker against his or her will

• An employer making "sleeping with them" a requirement to get the job

• Co-workers sending emails containing sexual language to one another in the workplace

• Posting inappropriate sexual comments about a coworker on social media

• Having an inappropriate sexual picture displayed on your desk

• Commenting on someone's wardrobe in a sexual manner

• Making an employee feel uncomfortable by staring at them in a sexual way

• Inappropriately whistling at a coworker

• Your employer making an inappropriate sexual hand gesture

How to Deal with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Make sure your policy on sexual harassment is clearly posted for everyone in the organization to see. It needs to be understood that sexual harassment won't be tolerated. Have your policy in your employee handbook. When employees are hired, instruct them to read the handbook and possibly sign a document clarifying that they understand your policies. Communication is key!

When a sexual harassment complaint is filed:

1. Assign an HR manager to handle the complaint.

2. The HR manager should then talk with the employee who has made the complaint. Ensure the employee this matter will be handled professionally.

3. Get the entire story of what happened from the employee who is filing the complaint.

4. Inform the person who is accused of sexual harassment that they have had a complaint filed against them. Ask them to be patient while you conduct an investigation. (let’s talk on this last sentence)

5. Conduct a thorough investigation.

• Interview any witnesses

• Interview the person accused

• Ask open ended questions, get all the facts

6. Once you have gathered all of your information, make the best decision you can with the information at hand. Consult with your HR team.

7. Consider consulting with an attorney also, to make sure you are acting fairly and legally.

8. Follow up after the decision has been carried out to make sure no other incidents have occurred.

Enforcing your sexual harassment policy is a must. Make sure your policy is clearly written and easy to understand. Reminder - An employee handbook is one of the most important communication tools between a company and its employees. This document serves many purposes – namely, it sets forth employee and employer expectations by delivering information on company policies, procedures, benefits and compensation programs. Your handbook can also serve as a marketing tool. It introduces your company and its employment/business philosophy to your employees. It is an opportunity to communicate your company culture and what sets your organization apart from other places of employment. If you need assistance writing your sexual harassment policy or developing your employee handbook, we can help you. Kmet Consulting is your source for HR help in Iowa and Missouri. We are available to help you with your HR questions, reach out at any time and call 877-783-5638.



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