Stopping Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Stopping Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

An employer has a responsibility to maintain a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. It’s not only a legal obligation, but it makes good business sense as well. If an employer allows sexual harassment to flourish in the workplace, that employer pays a high price in employee morale, productivity, and even lawsuits. Prevention is the most effective weapon against sexual harassment.

Today, there is finally momentum for significant change in the United States regarding workplace sexual harassment and paving a way for victims to come forward. Allegations against powerful or high-ranking individuals are increasing, causing employers to examine their own practices in an effort to address the prevalence of sexual harassment.  

So, what is sexual harassment? It is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. Basically, any conduct of a sexual nature that makes an employee uncomfortable has the potential to be sexual harassment. To state is simply, it comes in many forms. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, manager, or co-worker. An employer may even be liable for harassment by a non-employee (for example, a customer or vendor), depending on the circumstances.

It is an equal opportunity offense. Sexual harassment is gender-neutral, and women also can sexually harass, and sexual harassment may also be same-sex harassment. Employers who have anti-harassment policies, clear policies, and make their employees aware of a zero-tolerance approach, may protect themselves from claims and lawsuits. It is also important to have a strong internal complaint mechanism and process in place, so that employees can come forward without fear of retaliation. In fact, one of the most significant things that an employer can do is to create a harassment reporting procedure that makes employees fall safe coming forward.

Education is another weapon to prevent sexual harassment. Training employees on an annual basis explaining what sexual harassment is and explaining that employees have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment can go a long way to prevention. Similarly, making clear that management will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complaints about sexual harassment—which is also illegal.

Without doubt, sexual harassment can be eliminated in the workplace. It’s time.

Today's blog: Sharon Eubanks shares the harsh reality of sexual harrassment in the workplace and how companies can better handle and ultimately prevent it by proper education and other tactics.