April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and your workplace must be safe for employees, vendors and customers. Make time this month to refresh your understanding of sexual harassment as you prevent sexual assault and create a safe work environment.
Define Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment includes any unwanted sexual advances such as offering a work benefit in exchange for sexual favors, inappropriate touching, unwelcome or intimidating behavior, offensive jokes, and inappropriate decor. Federal and state laws prohibit any form of sexual harassment.
Know Your Role
As an employer, you have the responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and create a safe work environment for all employees. A harassment-free work environment improves morale and productivity, and it reduces liability.
Write a Clear Anti-Harassment Policy
Your employee handbook should include a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that outlines:
- The definition of sexual harassment
- Your zero-tolerance policy
- Reporting procedures
- Investigation process
- Disciplinary action
- Anti-retaliation details
Consult your attorney to ensure the policy meets or exceeds federal and state requirements and covers all your bases.
Conduct Frequent Training Sessions
Schedule annual or more frequent training sessions to ensure all your employees understand the definition of sexual harassment, your company’s official policy, how to report it, and ways to prevent it. These trainings should be mandatory for all your employees, including supervisors.
Ensure Leadership Complies with the Zero-Tolerance Policy
All supervisors and managers must comply with your zero-tolerance policy as they prevent sexual harassment. Leaders set the bar for everyone else’s behavior and must be trusted to handle cases appropriately.
You can monitor email and other electronic communications as well as behavior as you look for and stop inappropriate behavior. Encourage your employees to monitor and report inappropriate behavior, too.
Clarify the Reporting Procedure
Despite your efforts, sexual harassment may occur, and you will need to clarify the reporting procedure and empower victims and onlookers to report improper actions. While employees should tell the perpetrator to stop, they should also know who to report to, what information to share and how to report harassment perpetrated by their direct supervisor.
Every employee should know the consequences of sexual harassment. They should also be confident that the consequences will be applied consistently to all employees.
Create a Safe Culture
While you need and want to prevent sexual harassment, the company’s culture should also support your stand. No crude or offensive jokes, inappropriate activities during after-work events or other improper actions should be tolerated, encouraged or allowed.
Your company must be safe for everyone. This April, improve sexual assault awareness and prevent sexual harassment as you follow the law and improve your company and culture.