Despite great strides toward equality, sexual harassment remains an ongoing problem in workplaces across the country.
A survey conducted by the nonprofit organization Stop Street Harassment found that 38% of women had been sexually harassed at work. Workplace numbers were not available for men, although 43% of men did report experiences of sexual harassment at some point in their lives.
It’s crucial for all workplaces to have a sexual harassment policy in place. A sound policy should protect both the employer and employees. The following are four essential components of any workplace sexual harassment policy.
1. Definitions and examples of sexual harassment
In general, there are two main types of sexual harassment. Quid pro quo harassment involves one party seeking sexual favors from another for a workplace benefit, such as a promotion.
The other type of harassment involves a hostile work environment. Hostile work environments can take on subtle forms. Co-workers may be unaware that their behavior is causing others to feel discomfort. Clearly defining what a hostile work environment is can help provide your employees with a sense of direction.
Providing examples of prohibited behaviors can also help ensure your employees do not find themselves in violation of your policy.
2. A process for reporting claims
A sexual harassment policy is meaningless if employees have no process for reporting offensive behaviors. You should provide instructions for how to report a claim. You should also identify the person will take the reports of harassment claims.
3. Outline what steps will be taken
Make it clear that you will investigate sexual harassment claims. If there is evidence of harassment, outline the steps that will be taken next. It’s also useful to outline potential disciplinary actions. It’s important for your employees to know that you take their concerns seriously.
4. Workplace training
Sexual harassment policies are useless if they only exist in the abstract. Ensure your employees read and acknowledge the sexual harassment policy. Training and awareness seminars can also go a long way toward putting a stop to harassment before it has even begun.