Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Oct 27,2017

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual behaviour or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favour, which makes a person feel offended, humiliated or intimidated. It can be physical, verbal or written. Sometimes the victim of the harassment may not be able to communicate their issues to their supervisor but it does not mean that they are accepting of such behaviour. HR possesses a key responsibility to build and sustain a workplace environment that is completely clear of sexual harassment.

Examples of Sexual Harassment:

Unwanted jokes, gestures, offensive words on clothing,  unwelcome comments and repartee.

Touching and any other bodily contact such as scratching or patting a coworker's back, grabbing an employee around the waist, or interfering with an employee's ability to move.

Transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual or other harassment-related nature.

Playing sexually suggestive music.

Employees need to understand that they have an obligation to report sexual harassment concerns to their supervisor or the Human Resources office. Employers have an obligation to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace. If it can be shown that the employer knew or should have known that the harassment was occurring and they did not take all reasonable actions to stop it, then the employer can be held liable for an individual’s actions. 

Here are some tips for employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace:

Anti-harassment policy:

• Proper definition of sexual harassment 

• State in clear words that any kind of sexual harassment will not be tolerated or accepted within the workplace

• State that HR will definitely discipline or fire any employee who harass other employees

• Display a clear agenda for filing complaints regarding sexual harassment

• State that HR will properly inspect any complaint that are reported 

• State that an employer will not admit or accept any reprisal against anyone who objects about any sexual harassment

Awareness training for All:

HR should execute annual training sessions for employees which would train employees on awareness about what sexual harassment is and how to prevent it. It should teach them that they have a legal right to have a work environment devoid of any form of sexual harassment and an employer should make sure that all the employees understand the procedure for filing complaints, be aware of their options in that situation and are motivated to report to their respective managers and supervisors of the incident occuring.

• Conduct sexual harassment training and retraining for everyone, especially all supervisors and managers, on at least an annual basis. Everyone in the organization should understand what sexual harassment is and what to do if it occurs. (Note: in some states this training is mandatory.)

• Ensure managers and supervisors understand their obligation to maintain zero tolerance for harassment in the workplace.

Monitoring workplace

HR should be proactive in observing the workplace. They should get out among the employees themselves periodically to get insight on their work environment. If they see any offensive posters or notes, an immediate action should by HR to address the negative environment. Respective supervisors and managers should make sure all communication lines to them are open.

•  Monitor emails and other electronic communications to scan for harassing content. Monitor behaviour too. It is important as an employer to be on the lookout for inappropriate behaviour and stop it right away.

Take all the complaints seriously

Immediately investigate any and all complaints related to sexual harassment. If its a genuine complaint, HR’s actions against the perpetrator should be swift and effective.

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