Sexual misconduct and harassment have been all over the news lately. Experiencing unwanted sexual tension is a frustrating and oftentimes scary occurrence. This behavior shouldn’t be tolerated in the workplace.
Sexual assault and harassment are, unfortunately, more common than anyone would like it to be.
These issues can happen in your office. If a situation occurs, you should handle the accusations seriously and have a protocol for preventing any kind of sexual misconduct.
Speaking out against harassment is difficult. Offenders are hard to recognize — you can easily have some in your office. Here’s how to fight sexual harassment in the workplace and create a safer work environment.
Create a Sexual Harassment Policy
The best way to educate your staff about harassment is by creating a policy. Publish this policy in your employee handbook, but have the document available at all times and revisit the policy during regular meetings.
In the policy, outline all behaviors that are considered inappropriate.
Highlight certain behaviors, such as groping, sending unsolicited messages and images, catcalling, stalking, and threatening.
State the definitions of sexual harassment and misconduct. Highlight the significance of this issue and how the issue and behaviors are defined.
The policy doesn’t only serve as a legal source of harassment.
It also serves as a security blanket for potential victims. The policy states your company takes harassment very seriously. Therefore, no employee should be intimidated when reporting harassment.
You can also clearly outline an employee’s steps when reporting harassment. It should also include the consequences of sexually harassing or assaulting an employee.
Emphasize Sexual Harassment and Assault are Against the Law
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is unlawful.
There are few laws monitoring teasing or rude comments, there are instances where harassment can go into the hands of the law.
If the victim can prove there was workplace violence, they can charge the offender. This results in termination, a restraining order, and depending on the severity, imprisonment.
Here are some examples of workplace violence:
What’s the best way to emphasize the importance of fighting workplace violence? Stating the consequences.
Committing these acts of violence can seriously affect the offender. They will lose their job and not be allowed near the office or the employee.
Even if they don’t receive prison time, their sex offender status will make it difficult to find further employment.
Pay Attention to What Employees are Saying
There are always consequences to what others are saying. Someone may say a joke that some may find funny and others may be offended.
This kind of banter may be appropriate when you’re with friends but shouldn’t be allowed in the workplace.
There are all sorts of personalities in your office. It’s common for the funny workers to crack jokes. But make sure you speak up when these jokes become too inappropriate.
Educate your employees to keep conversations rated PG. Discourage any jokes relating to sex, sexual orientation, or an employees’ appearance.
You should also educate your employees to identify indirect sexual harassment. This could be sexually explicit words said about another employee behind their back.
If your employees are talking about another employee sexually, encourage anyone to report that conversation if they hear it.
Promote Appropriate Office Parties
Office parties are a great way to bond with your employees. The work week can be stressful and everyone deserves a break. But make sure your office parties are appropriate.
Avoid alcohol and excessive partying. Choose acceptable locations such as going out for lunch or coffee. If an employee decides to have a drink, make sure it’s no more than a couple of drinks. Or, enforce a no alcohol policy.
State all company standards apply. These include the sexual harassment policy as well as dress code and inner-office relationships.
Your employees can have a fun time without the influence of alcohol, partying, and sex. Remind your employees you’re all adults and there is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the workplace.
Don’t Allow Gender Dynamics and Inequality
Whether you’re hiring a freelancer or are promoting a staff member, never allow gender dynamics to interfere with your hiring decision.
When you hire or promote someone, signify their qualifications, experience, and hard work. Don’t mention their gender, their appearance, or their age.
It can be difficult to avoid gender exclusiveness.
Sometimes, you promote a male employee because he showed the best work ethic out of your whole team. Or you hire an attractive woman because her qualifications and experience are what your company needs.
Treat every employee with the same regard — professionalism.
During reviews, critique their work. If they’re promoted or hired, emphasize their performance or their experience. If they’re demoted or let go, explain it was their lack of performance.
Do your best to not allow gender biases and the glass ceiling to affect your hiring process or promotions.
Pay your employees by their position, not their gender. Give raises and bonuses when they work to deserve them, not because of looks or office romance.
Always Trust Your Instinct
Our law makes proving harassment difficult. It’s also difficult when you’re confronted with a situation and you don’t know who’s at fault.
When a harassment or assault situation is placed in front of you, use your best judgment.
If the employee has proof, terminate the offender. If the details are messy, advise the victim goes to authorities or hire a lawyer such as one from this law firm.
There’s not much you can do about sexual harassment and assault. All you can do is trust your instincts on your employees and the situations that happen at the office.
The last thing you want is a toxic work environment, so use your best judgment when protecting your employees.
Time to Stop Workplace Harassment
When addressing and preventing harassment in the workplace, changes need to be made. All of your employees deserve to work in a safe and happy environment.
If someone is harassing or assaulting their co-worker, they need to be terminated. If the situation is severe, report it to the authorities.
You need to prove to your employees that you take harassment and assault very seriously.
If you need more advice for bullying in the workplace, read our blog.