As there are more and more claims of sexual harassment being made in the working world, it has become more important than ever to educate employees on the importance of avoiding any form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Failure to do so could lead to loss of employment and a decrease in your overall reputation as a company. Allowing your staff to understand what is classed as sexual harassment, and why it should never happen within your business, reduces the risk of you having to deal with any cases of sexual harassment. Here we look at the importance of avoiding sexual harassment in the workplace, what the risks associated with sexual harassment cases are, and the benefits of providing training for your employees.
What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
Many people have differing views of what constitutes sexual harassment, and this is why it is more important than ever to educate everyone on what sexual harassment actually is. For some, a little flirt in the office means nothing, while for others this is as seen as incredibly unprofessional and should not be carried out in the workplace. For some, they may be breaking the sexual harassment codes in the workplace without ever realizing they are overstepping a line, so knowing what counts as sexual harassment is essential.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can mean many things and can happen between any genders, not just male to female. It is important to address the fact that no matter where the sexual harassment comes from, it should be reported. Many are worried to report a high-level executive for fear of losing their job or not gaining a promotion, but this should never be the case and nobody should abuse their position of power to sexually harass a member of staff.
There are many ways sexual harassment takes place in the workplace, and it can include the following:
- sexually inappropriate images or videos being shared in the workplace
- suggestive notes
- emails or texts
- sexual posters or images being displayed in the workplace
- sexual jokes or anecdotes
- making inappropriate gestures
- sexual comments being made about a particular member of staff
- touching inappropriately
- offensive comments regarding someone’s gender or sexual orientation
Sexual harassment does not just mean touching another employee, it can mean many things including homophobia.
Why Is It Important to Avoid Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?
There are many obvious and not so obvious reasons to avoid sexual harassment training in your workplace, and they are all important. Many employers do not see the importance of sexual harassment training and this is a downfall. No form of training is a waste of time or productivity and failure to properly educate staff could lead to employee loss and a bad workforce ethic. As a business owner or manager, you have a vital role in protecting your employees and preventing sexual harassment from happening. This means doing everything in your power to prevent it, including background checks on employees and providing adequate training.
The best way to prevent sexual harassment is to be a good role model yourself. If you are overstepping boundaries or falling foul of any form of sexual harassment yourself, you are not setting a good example for employees and you will be more than likely to attract the wrong type of people into your business and lose good staff. Modeling good behavior and promoting non-harassment will decrease the chances of it happening in the workplace, or if it does occur for an employee, being a good role model ensures they will speak up and come to you at the first point of a problem.
If sexual harassment happens in your workplace, there may be legal implications, especially if you have not adequately attempted to deal with the situation. If an employee within your company is charged with sexual harassment against another worker, your company may have to deal with reputation damage, restitution and legal fees. This can possibly be prevented through training, as you have shown as a company that you understand sexual harassment laws and are attempting to prevent them to the best of your abilities. Proactively taking measures to reduce sexual harassment can go in your favor if a court case were to happen.
In some U.S. states, sexual harassment training is not just an option, but is mandatory. If you do own a business, it is best to check with your state laws to see if you are breaking the law by not providing this training. This could result in hefty fines and the loss of your company’s license. Sexual harassment is serious and therefore preventing it in your workplace is of the upmost importance.
What Should You Do as An Employer?
As stated earlier, the most obvious way to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace is through training your employees. There are many sexual harassment training courses tailored for workplaces and these can often be taken online or in person. If you have yet to provide your employees with training, browse the training options here to make certain you are complying with the law and you are keeping your employees safe from harm. This isn’t just something that should be provided once though; training your employees on sexual harassment in the workplace should be an ongoing process.
Regular reminders of this, such as yearly training, alongside other training means you are constantly reminding your employees of good practice. As you will more than likely also bring in new employees to the team, regular reinforcement of training ensures every employee is covered. When you have completed training, you need to provide a form of documentation to prove this, such as a certificate that is kept on employee file. If a court case does ensue, you will be more than protected with vital evidence that you have provided workplace training. This training should also be taken by everyone, from janitors to executives; nobody is too important to miss out on sexual harassment training.
Besides training, having a strict policy written up that includes zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the workplace will further implement the importance of avoiding this. The policy needs to define what sexual harassment is and what it constitutes, as well as what can happen to any employee that violates these terms. These policies should be given to every new employee and should be signed, so you have documentation that each employee has read and agreed to all terms.
Educating your employees and training them to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace should hopefully be enough to prevent it from ever happening in your company. Pre-employment checks are another important part of this process, as failure to check for criminal convictions could lead your business to be shut down if a sexual harassment case does occur. This also means checking employee references, especially if they have been fired from any previous roles. Showing that you have a zero tolerance on sexual harassment will improve employee productivity and help to retain employees, as they can see that their company cares about them and wants to do everything within their power to prevent sexual harassment. Policies and training are key to preventing anything from happening within your workplace and makes it a better environment for everyone.