By, Aisling Byrne, Senior HR Consultant at BlueFire HR
Claims of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct in the workplace can be found in every industry including small and large corporations in law, education, non-profits and the financial sector. Never happened at your company? Don’t assume it’s not happening just because someone hasn’t complained (yet)!
Failing to prevent an issue—or overlooking or ignoring an existing problem—can have serious consequences. If the victim files a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the company will be the subject of an investigation and a possible lawsuit by the EEOC on behalf of the victim.
How you handle a complaint—or even a whisper—of sexual harassment can have a significant impact by sending a message that unacceptable behavior is in fact acceptable.
Here are best practices and next steps to follow:
Develop, implement and practice a good anti-harassment policy. If you don’t have a policy, get one. If you have one, make sure your employees know about it. Include examples of unacceptable conduct and the consequences.
Train and educate your employees. Provide all of your employees with harassment training (not just managers) and ensure they are aware of what constitutes harassment and what options they have available to them.
Provide more than one option to file a complaint. Companies should have two or more unrelated ways that employees can complain about harassment, discrimination or retaliation. For example, if your policy states to go to your manager but that person is the harasser, your policy is ineffective. Make a confidential hotline available to your employees.
Investigate the conduct. Even if you do not have an official complaint, but merely whisperings in the office—or outside the office at an event or on social media—do not hesitate to properly investigate.
Take action if needed. Even if the person is one of your best performers or in the C-suite, sexual harassment is unacceptable regardless of the harasser.
Be preventive and proactive now not after a complaint is made. The costs of dealing with sexual harassment – such as litigation, destroyed reputation, loss of customers, clients or investors, inability to attract and retain talent, loss of competitive advantage and sustainability or a decline in morale – is far greater than making the investment in your culture.
BlueFire HR can help! From investigations, trainings, and/or a confidential hotline. We want you to be doing everything you can to create a respectful workplace.
Sign-up for BlueFire HR’s Monthly Membership and get a confidential employee hotline included.
BlueFire HR is now offering Train-the-Trainer classes on Anti-Harassment Training.
This offering includes:
- Manager Training with skills practices (60 minutes)
- Staff Training with skills practices (60 minutes)
- A train-the-trainer session on how to conduct these sessions
- On Call HR Mentor to talk to for up to one year
- Ability to brand your sessions the way you want
- All materials are yours to keep and use year over year.
For more information, please contact us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.