All organizations must understand the laws around sexual harassment prevention, and prioritize training to minimize issues and ensure that everyone is aware of the protocol in place for handling incidents that do occur. That being said, sexual harassment prevention is an integral part of compliance training, as it is key for creating a safe work environment and respectful company culture.
So, what can employers do to combat sexual harassment in the workplace?
Top Tips for Sexual Harassment Prevention
1. Know the laws.
Last year, 32 states passed legislation establishing, overhauling, or augmenting sexual harassment policies in place. For example, in California, employers with five or more employees must provide sexual harassment training for at least one hour to non-supervisory employees and two hours to supervisors, among numerous other requirements.
It is imperative that employers know their state laws and comply with them. If you aren’t sure of your state’s sexual harassment training requirements, you can look them up here.
2. Ensure that all employees understand what sexual harassment means.
Some people may not realize that sexual harassment is not limited to unwanted touching or advances. In actuality, sexual harassment encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including lewd and offensive jokes and comments, sending sexually suggestive emails, making sexually suggestive gestures, displaying sexually provocative images, and many others.
Employees must be educated on different examples of sexual harassment that go beyond the obvious. They should also learn about gray areas and nuance within them. Some people may not even know that they crossing lines because they are unsure of what the lines actually are, so organizations must take strides to ensure that their employees understand what sexual harassment really means.
3. Establish a clear policy on sexual harassment.
Your policy should outline the definition of sexual harassment, procedures for reporting violations including the person or persons responsible for handling complaints, and consequences for anyone who violates the policy. The policy should also make it clear that victims or those who speak up by reporting sexual harassment will not be punished and endure any form of retaliation.
Make sure this policy is clear to all your employees by distributing it, posting it in an obvious location, and emailing reminders about it on a regular basis. In order for the policy to be clear — and for you to enforce it — it must be easily accessible to employees.
4. Build a respectful workplace culture.
A workplace that focuses on inclusion is one with which employees want to be associated. It is a place that compels them to do the right thing and treat another with respect and dignity. Organizations should prioritize these values and ingrain them in the mission of the company, as well as work to build a culture that embodies them. People who believe that their employer cares about them are more likely to want to join them in their mission. This type of workplace fosters communication and compassion — ultimately leading to an atmosphere in which predatory and unwanted behaviors such as sexual harassment are less likely to occur.
5. Implement a mandatory sexual harassment training program.
Establishing a sexual harassment training program is the most important step you can take to prevent sexual harassment from taking place and educating your employees about how they need to behave and the consequences that will be enforced if they violate the rules. The training program should include real-life scenarios and examples of what is appropriate and what is not, covering a range of types of situations that apply to managers and non-managers alike. It should also cover the resources available to victims of sexual harassment and procedures for reporting it.
This is an essential step your organization needs to take in preventing sexual harassment and contributing to a healthy atmosphere in the workplace, even if your state laws do not mandate it. All employees must be cognizant of what sexual harassment actually means and entails and understand what will happen if they violate the policy or laws governing it.
Are you looking to implement a sexual harassment training program at your organization? Some organizations develop their own training programs, but expert advice and education can be enormously helpful in facilitating awareness and prevention. Using examples and real-life scenarios, Interactive Services’ Anti-Harassment & Workplace Harassment Compliance Training eLearning course teaches your employees about the definition of harassment, laws concerning it, retaliation, the impact of all types of harassment, and more, with a special focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. Your employees will come away with a better understanding of the nuances of sexual harassment and what kind of behavior is expected of them.