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Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

by Stacey LarotondaSeptember 12, 2017 8:00 AM

Are you confident in your company’s policy on sexual harassment? What if I told you in 2016 nearly 13,000 sexual harassment charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), costing companies over $40 million in claims payout, not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation. That email circulating around the office with the most recent celebrity nudes could cost you millions once Bill prints a copy and tapes it to Martha’s computer!

Image of sexual harassment in the workplace. Learn how a clear, enforced harassment policy can prevent sexual harassment.

What is Sexual Harassment? 

When most people think of harassment, they think of making inappropriate jokes or forwarding a “funny” email to a co-worker, but there are two distinct type of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment  . In short, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a boss or other person in a position of power pressuring workers into sexual acts in exchange for workplace favors. A hostile work environment occurs when an employee or employees are subject to pervasive or severe acts or language that is deemed inappropriate. The company has a responsibility to all employees to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity. 

Happy Hour Gone Wrong! 

Employees can experience sexual harassment outside of the office in what may seem like harmless fun. For example, employees might feel pressured to drink because the boss ordered a third round. It is important to not make employees take part in activities that make them uncomfortable. Company events including happy hour, team building retreats, and holiday parties can increase the risk of employees being sexually harassed. 

Play Offense, Not Defense! 

The employer plays a key role in the prevention of harassment in the workplace. Proper training plays a huge role in the success of preventing sexual harassment. GMS can educate and train all your employees to successfully prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. We do this through custom training programs designed to meet the needs of your company and incorporate real-world scenarios your employees could encounter. During the training, your employees will learn laws and regulations they must follow, along with proper procedures in how to handle a situation in which they are being sexually harassed. 

Can You Afford a Sexual Harassment Lawsuit? 

If an employer has not taken all the reasonable steps to prevent and deal with harassment in the workplace, they may be liable for any harassment which does occur. The EEOC standard for employer liability of sexual harassment depends typically on whether the harasser is the victim’s supervisor. An employer is directly liable for a hostile work environment created by a supervisor. 

Recently, Ford Motor Company allegedly allowed racial and sexual harassment at two of its plants, resulting in a $10 million settlement with the EEOC. The lack of training and lax enforcement of their sexual harassment policy was directly to blame for the recent cases.

Conclusion

The best way to combat harassment in the workforce is to have a clear policy in place for all employees, mandate training, and investigate all claims with proper repercussions. GMS can successfully educate your employees on sexual harassment and help prevent a lawsuit that could completely derail your whole operation. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help protect your business from sexual harassment penalties.

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