How to Prevent Sexual Harassment Lawsuits
Modern workplaces are diverse, and employers have to implement preventive measures to reduce the risk of allegations of sexual harassment. Many employers just assume that employees will behave with common sense, tact, and diplomacy. But employees don’t always behave tactfully, and it is the employer who will have to pay the price in the form of an sexual harassment lawsuit.
As an employer, there is much that you can do to harassment-proof your workplace. A culture against harassment must be established as soon as employees are hired. Make sure that all harassment-related policies are contained in an employee manual that is handed over to employees as soon as he or she joins the workplace. Your handbook must clearly lay down that no harassment of any type will be tolerated in the workplace, and that the office has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment. It must also make clear that employees who are found engaging in such behaviors in any form, will be disciplined immediately.
Make it clear that employees understand what exactly harassment means. Very often, these problems arise because employees engage in harmless banter, flirtation, and other practices that they don’t necessarily believe would be dangerous enough to lead to a hazardous situation. In the current situation, merely making off-color jokes could be considered sexual harassment, and could be grounds for a lawsuit.
There are various behaviors that can be considered harassment, and helping employees understand what constitutes harassing behavior must be part of orientation and training programs.
Make sure that supervisors and higher ranking officials in your workplace have the authority to initiate action and begin investigations when there are allegations of harassment. There must be clear procedures outlined for filing complaints, and complaints must be processed speedily. Any complaint must be completely investigated, and all investigations must be documented thoroughly.
Training can help reduce the risks of sexual harassment. Make sure that such training sessions are conducted at least twice a year. Make sure that employees understand not just what sexual harassment is, and how to recognize it, but also that they have a right to a workplace that is completely free of such offensive behavior. When all employees know their duties, responsibilities, as well as rights, the risk of such behavior decreases sharply.