We often see clients who need to update their employee handbooks or policies and we have resources available at CPI-HR to meet those needs. One very prevalent topic currently in the news that has a lot of employers looking into their own culture is sexual harassment in the workplace.
Sexual Harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo typically refers to situations where the victim engages in sexual conduct with the harasser on the basis of an employment decision such as not being fired or receiving a promotion. Hostile work environment typically describes situations where the harassment doesn’t necessarily relate to an employment decision but creates an environment of discrimination, insult or abuse. The hostile work environment can be a bit of a “gray” area as the definition is more ambiguous and complex and makes up a larger portion of documented sexual harassment claims.
Management and Human Resources play a large role in preventing harassment. The first step in creating a culture that doesn’t allow for harassment to occur is to lead by example. Leadership should never display or encourage inappropriate behavior in the workplace or during workplace events that take place out of the workplace such as office parties or after work social events. The second step in preventing workplace harassment is to implement a general harassment policy and a sexual harassment policy. These policies should include the following:
- Zero tolerance. Sexual harassment can include a lot of “gray” areas, it is best to have black and white standards and address them immediately.
- The definition of workplace harassment. This can include some examples as long as they are not intended to be all-inclusive.
- A duty to report clause. This should include victims and/or witnesses.
- The process for reporting harassment claims
- The process for how investigations will be conducted in your company
- A confidentiality clause. It is important to consider that law enforcement or litigating attorneys may be involved so absolute confidentiality should never be promised, however, understanding that there are often feelings of embarrassment associated with harassment and ensuring that the matter will be kept discrete and to “need to know” parties is important.
- A retaliation clause. Employees, especially victims, need to know that if it is their duty to report harassment, it won’t be held against them in the future.
- A specific fraternization policy prohibiting supervisors from having relationships with subordinates.
In addition to leading by example and creating and/or updating your workplace harassment policies, Leadership can facilitate a harassment-free culture by holding a workshop or having an active training program. They should also take all complaints seriously and act immediately to investigate complaints.
Employers should make every effort to create a safe and comfortable environment for their employees. If you have concerns about your company culture and would like access to more resources, please contact your CPI-HR representative at 877.542.7833.