How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

Sexual harassment is a major issue in workplaces across the nation. This type of wrongful conduct can result in poor morale, significant turnover, and reduced employee performance. It can also impact a company’s reputation and bottom line. Importantly, there are a number of measures an employer can take in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

By implementing prevention-based harassment training and drafting strong anti-harassment policies, an employer can communicate that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Here are some of the steps employers can take when it comes to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace:

Establish a Written Policy to Inform Employees that Sexual Harassment is Prohibited

It is critical for every employer to have a written policy in place that specifically prohibits sexual harassment. The policy should be part of the employee handbook and distributed to all employees when they are hired. However, the right provisions must be written into the policy, including the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated
  • Examples of prohibited conduct
  • The procedures to be followed to make complaints about sexual harassment
  • Language ensuring that all complaints will be handled confidentially and seriously
  • A requirement that supervisors and managers report suspected sexual harassment immediately
  • A statement assuring employees that they will not be subjected to retaliation for reporting sexual harassment

Not only must employees be familiar with the workplace sexual harassment policies, but managers and supervisors should review them on a regular basis to ensure compliance. Employees should also know who to contact to address any concerns of harassment.

Provide Adequate Training to Employees and Management

In addition to providing the sexual harassment policy to every employee, it is best to explain it in meetings and at regular trainings. It is imperative for both employees and management to have a thorough understanding of how to identify instances of sexual harassment and know what to do when it occurs.

However, it isn’t enough for an employer to communicate the policy just once. Employers should require attendance at training sessions and follow up with employees regarding what they have learned. Although sexual harassment prevention training is not required by statute in Oklahoma, federal guidelines set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and nationwide court decisions have made it clear that periodic trainings should be mandated.

Assure Employees That They Will Not Be Punished for Raising Concerns

Many employees might fear reporting sexual harassment because they are concerned about losing their jobs or facing an adverse employment action. Notably, one of the most important things an employer can do regarding preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is to communicate to employees that they will not be punished for raising their concerns. An effective sexual harassment complaint procedure should encourage employees to bring forth any allegations of sexual harassment and assure them that their complaints will be handled with the utmost discretion and confidentiality.

Inform Employees To Whom They Should Report Sexual Harassment Allegations

In many cases, an employee might be unclear about who is responsible for addressing allegations of sexual harassment. Employees should know who to bring their complaints to and be advised that their concerns will be handled promptly. While Human Resources (HR) is typically responsible for handling harassment matters, an employer might consider allowing employees to make complaints to any manager in the workplace to help ensure they feel comfortable raising their concerns.

Have a Policy in Place to Promptly Investigate Sexual Harassment Complaints

It is crucial for an employer to have procedures in place to conduct a thorough, timely, and impartial investigation into any allegations of sexual harassment. For instance, an employer should interview the employee who made the complaint, the individual accused of the harassment, and any witnesses. Upon completion of an investigation, an employer should take steps to ensure any prohibited conduct will stop.

It is a good idea for an employer to have at least two investigators to look into each sexual harassment allegation. This can help ensure an impartial investigation in the event one of the individuals is the party accused of the alleged harassment. Once a complaint has been filed, an employer should keep the employee informed regarding the status of their complaint, the investigation process, and the corrective measures that are taken.

Contact an Experienced Oklahoma Employment Law Attorney

If you’re an employer, it’s vital to ensure you have a policy in place for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. A skillful employment law attorney can work with you to develop an effective sexual harassment prevention policy that meets the needs of your business and complies with the law. With offices in Tulsa and Claremore, Titus Hillis Reynolds Love provides reliable counsel to companies, business owners, and employers throughout Oklahoma for employment matters at both the state and federal levels. Contact us online or call (918) 216-0892 to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help.