You have many goals as a business owner, chief of which is to make your company and its employees successful. Part of that is maintaining a workplace atmosphere where your employees feel secure and can focus on their tasks without unnecessary distractions. A major distraction in too many workplaces is sexual harassment. If workers are worried or even fearful because someone on the staff is behaving inappropriately, their employer may share in the culpability, especially if there is no solid policy regarding sexual harassment.
Including a sexual harassment policy in your employee handbook is never a bad idea. However, it is important that your policy address any unique aspects of your work environment or the job you do. In addition to being a warning and a deterrent to those who may be tempted to cross the line with coworkers, an effective policy will provide a guide for the immediate handling of any complaints that may arise.
What should our policy include?
A written policy is essential. Every employee should have access to your company’s sexual harassment policy, which should make the boundaries for behavior very clear. This includes providing a broad definition of sexual harassment as well as examples of actions that will not be tolerated. Such actions may include inappropriate jokes, physical touching and persistent advances. Your policy should also contain these critical items:
- The designation of numerous staff members to whom victims can report abuse or harassment
- The obligation for all managers or supervisors to report any violations they observe or credible complaints they receive
- Assurance that you will make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of an employee who files a complaint
- A description of the process for dealing with complaints, perhaps including a timeline
- A list of sanctions employees may expect if they violate the code of conduct
- Prohibitions against any form of retaliation against an employee who files a sexual harassment complaint against another staff member
Of course, any policy is worthless if you fail to effectively train and retrain your staff and to follow through with the policy’s provisions. This means adhering to the steps for investigating claims of inappropriate behavior and disciplining those who violate the policy. If your employees believe you will support them, you are more likely to retain loyal, hardworking people. Additionally, establishing and abiding by a solid sexual harassment policy may go far in protecting your company from liability.