Sexual harassment should not be tolerated in any work environment. An employer who does not take the proper steps to protect employees from sexual harassment could be held liable in a civil lawsuit. To ensure that you are taking steps to protect yourself and your employees, you need to create a safe environment for your employees to report harassment incidents. Our South Carolina labor and employment law lawyers suggest that you take the following steps as you develop your internal policies regarding harassment at work.
Five Important Steps Each Company Needs to Take to Protect Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
- Develop a Comprehensive Sexual Harassment Policy
- Make Sure All Employees Know and Understand the Policy
- Use Clear and Plain Language When Explaining How to Report a Sexual Harassment Incident
- Offer Additional Training and Education Regarding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
- Create an Open-Door Policy
Before you can create a safe environment for individuals to report sexual harassment, you must develop a clear company policy regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Because your company is comprised of many individuals of different ages and backgrounds, it is important to define harassment clearly. What once was acceptable behavior 20 years ago may not be acceptable behavior today. Likewise, what is acceptable behavior in one culture may not be acceptable behavior in another
Each employee should receive a copy of the company’s sexual harassment policy as part of their employment package when they are hired. A human resource officer or other supervisor assigned to handle complaints should review the policy with the employee to ensure he or she understands the company’s policy. It should be clear that the company does not tolerate any form of sexual harassment in the workplace. You should also post summaries of the policy on bulletin boards and in break rooms.
You should include clear and plain language in your policy and in the summaries notifying employees what to do if they experience sexual harassment in the workplace. There should be a clear structure for reporting instances of harassment, including whom an employee may report to if the harassment is by a direct supervisor or manager.
Hold regular meetings with groups of employees to review the company’s policy, including how to report harassment. Managers and supervisors should attend continuing education and other training seminars as a refresher on how to handle sexual harassment in the workplace. Retraining and refresher courses are often an effective way to help management understand how to respond to sexual harassment complaints by employees.
Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace may hesitate to report incidents because they fear retaliation from the offender. Therefore, you should have an open-door policy whereby anyone can meet with a human resources officer to file an anonymous complaint. HR representatives should receive ongoing training in how to handle sexual harassment complaints. With an open-door policy in your HR department, employees may feel safer in meeting with an HR representative because other employees may not automatically assume the employee is meeting with HR to file a complaint about another employee. An employee could be meeting with HR to discuss benefits, additional training, or PTO requests.
Our South Carolina Business Attorney Can Help Draft Sexual Harassment Policies
It is important to create a workplace that is free from harassment in any form. To protect your company and yourself from liability, it is vital that you understand your responsibilities regarding harassment in the workplace. Schedule a consult with a member of our team at Willcox, Buyck & Williams, P.A. today. Our South Carolina labor and employment attorneys can review the laws with you and help you develop a policy that protects your employees and your company.