How To Deal With Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

How To Deal With Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Sexual harassment is degrading, inappropriate and embarrassing and has absolutely no place in the modern workplace. This article considers some practical ways of dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace from the organisational perspective.

Adopt a Clear Sexual Harassment Policy.

Any organisation will have a general policy about how employees should behave in the workplace, but a specific sexual harassment policy is becoming an increasingly popular means of communicating clearly to the workforce that inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature, towards colleagues will not be tolerated. Remember sexual harassment whether in a verbal or physical form is a violation of another person’s intimate space, which should never occur in the workplace. Organisations should strive to create a safe respectful working environment for staff.

Encourage Reporting

It is the organisation’s responsibility to encourage staff to report incidents of sexual harassment by making the process accessible to all and by being approachable and dealing with allegations in a sensitive and confidential manner. Some organisations worry that this inflates sexual harassment incidents, but the reality is that very few employees would report such a serious matter unduly, although it can happen. However, fostering a culture where staff are actively encouraged to report incidents will quickly encourage staff to think before they speak or act in a sexually inappropriate way.

Take Allegations Seriously

It can be a difficult and anxious experience for a member of staff to bring an allegation of sexual harassment to the attention of their employer. Often employees have to overcome a number of internal barriers to do this including concerns about how they will be perceived by staff for reporting an incident and concerns about the effect reporting sexual harassment might have on their long-term career within the organisation. All these are real fears for an employee and it is exceptionally rare for an employee to report a sexual harassment incident just for the sake of it. As such the organisation’s response should always be one of taking the allegation seriously and providing support to the alleged victim to make it easier for them to discuss what has happened.

All allegations should be investigated thoroughly by staff who are trained to do so and should be reported to the police with the permission of the victim where required in more serious cases. Remember slapping or patting someone’s bottom or touching another person without the individual’s consent is considered an act of assault in the eyes of the law. As such it is important that the organisation does not try to cover up sexual harassment allegations in a vain attempt to safeguard its reputation.

Educate Staff

Organisations should seek to spend time producing and communicating information about sexual harassment and about what is deemed inappropriate behaviour. Policy documents concerning sexual harassment should be provided to all staff and followed up with presentations to communicate salient points. Get staff to discuss the topic in small groups so that they can learn from each other why sexual harassment is inappropriate as peer learning is an effective learning strategy.

Organisations should use posters around the office to highlight inappropriate behaviour. These can be very powerful tool as it allows staff to challenge inappropriate behaviour or comments easily by drawing the attention of staff to the posters. This often addresses issues quickly and easily and guilty staff are left in no doubt about the organisation’s attitude towards inappropriate behaviour, without it being seen as an individual employee just trying to cause a fuss. This approach takes the emphasis off the employee and places it firmly onto the organisation to create a safe respectful environment.

Suspend the Alleged Offender During Investigations

If an allegation of sexual abuse is bought to the attention of the organisation then always suspend the alleged offender. Whilst this may seem severe in the absence of actual proof, it is unfair to ask the victim to continue to work alongside the person who may have committed the sexual harassment. Suspending the alleged offender gives them time to reflect on what they have done, if they know they are guilty and send a clear message about the seriousness in which sexual harassment in the workplace is viewed. If they are later found to be innocent then they will have lost nothing as they can return to their post.

Never suspend or remove the victim from the workplace, unless they decide they don’t want to be there, as this sends out the message that if you report sexual harassment you will be punished. Alleged victims should never be punished for reporting an incident.

Appoint a Competent Investigator

It is never appropriate for an individual with daily involvement with either party to investigate a sexual harassment allegation. It should always be undertaken in a sensitive manner by a trained member of staff, ideally from the human resources department.

When looking for sexual harassment lawyers, give our representatives a try—advice, and support for sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual Harassment Services and Advice. We provide the best representation in sexual harassment claims:


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