Addressing Sexual Harassment With Improved Policies

Half the battle of combatting sexual harassment in the workplace is simply growing awareness. And as more and more company leaders become aware, the better they can prepare to eliminate it altogether. Unfortunately, despite the growing nationwide conversation about sexual harassment, more than 6,500 claims were filed with EEOC in 2020. It’s a sobering statistic that reminds everyone that policies and procedures still need improvement. Here are a few other things your company needs to know about today’s sexual harassment policies and efforts.

Sexual Harassment Is Still an Employer’s Biggest Workplace Challenge

As Entrepreneur reports, sexual harassment continues to be one of the biggest hurdles companies face today. And while other forms of discrimination are also occuring, it’s sexual harassment that transcends industries, company sizes, and employee roles nationwide. As part of this article, one attorney opinion featured suggests the average cost of legal representation for a sexual harassment lawsuit can cost upwards of $75,000, reminding business owners how costly these occurrences can be.

Sexual Harassment Affects Everyone on the Job

Instances of sexual harassment don’t just affect the parties involved in the report. And these situations don’t just impact the company bottom line either. When sexual harassment in the workplace occurs, other employees and clients may get wind of the issue and choose to find employment elsewhere or do business elsewhere. It’s another reason why companies today need to have a strict and transparent sexual harassment policy in place.

What Your Sexual Harassment Policy Needs

You might already have a page in your employee handbook about a zero-tolerance for sexual harassment. But it’s not typically enough to stave off these claims. Company leaders need to enforce ongoing sexual harassment training to educate employees on what defines harassment, how employees should go about reporting instances of it, and what everyone should expect as part of your company action upon receiving a complaint. Make any sexual harassment training a requirement for all levels of staff to serve as a reminder of just how seriously your brand takes these claims.

Here is what the EEOC requires every sexual harassment policy to include:

• Clear explanation and definition of prohibited conduct.

• Assurance that employees who file complaints or participate in any investigations are protected against retaliation.

• Clear step-by-step descriptions of the complaint process.

• Guarantees that an employer will protect the confidentiality of the involved parties.

• Complaint process timelines are prompt, thorough, and impartial at every level.

• Assurances that an employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action after a determination has been made.

Fair Investigation Policies

It’s equally imperative that your company’s sexual harassment policy outlines the guidelines and expectations for your investigation process. When a claim is made, your business steps to follow through on an investigation and determination needs to include a quick timeline with thorough procedures for reviewing the claim. It’s also important that regardless of who, what, or when a report is filed, your company treats each incident seriously and confidentially.

Online Sexual Harassment Incidents

With the adoption of a remote workforce, many companies are employing staff members across state lines and even globally these days. Just because your teams aren’t mingling in the office doesn’t mean sexual harassment can’t happen. Digital harassment can also occur, and your company sexual harassment policy should include proper definitions of virtual violations.

Laws and State Mandates May Vary

As the sexual harassment conversation continues to become more prevalent, businesses can expect the laws and mandates to adjust for stricter reinforcement of policies. Today’s companies know there can be challenges in keeping up with the latest regulations. And it’s why many leaders are turning to third-party reporting partners for ethics hotlines and guidance. Take the guesswork out of developing your sexual harassment policy by working with the experts who know exactly what to implement at the policy level and can help keep your company aware of any violations among your ranks.

Today’s companies know to take sexual harassment in the workplace seriously. But many are unsure of how to improve their internal policies to combat these claims. Consider some of these details and suggestions as you create your policies and let us help when you’re ready to bring in an ethical partner.