Free HR Webinar on Sexual Harassment
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Ascentis recently hosted a free HR webinar titled Who Would Do That? Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. This free HR webinar recording is approved for free SHRM and HRCI credits and available to watch here. Our expert speaker from this webinar, Kathleen Huggins from Mercer PeoplePro, wrote the below reflection on this topic.
Who would do that? Sexual Harassment at Work
by Kathleen Huggins
In a recent free HR webinar, I discuss preventing sexual harassment. Specifically, it is always amazing to me that people believe they have the right to affect someone else’s existence in an adverse and harmful way–especially in the workplace. In 2016, there were 12,860 complaints of workplace sexual harassment filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – by both women and men. The penalties paid by employers for these claims equaled $40,700,000 with the average cost to defend a lawsuit (even if the employer wins) of about $250,000.
What Is Sexual Harassment?
To begin the discussion you need to know the definition of sexual harassment. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or any verbal or physical harassment of a physical nature.” The most common one we hear about in the news is Quid Pro Quo, which literally means a favor for a favor (e.g.: for a sexual favor you will get a promotion). The second type relates to the creation of a hostile work environment. This can include sexually explicit posters, someone looking at pornography on their computer or even explicit discussions around the water cooler.
Keep in mind that the allegations must be of a sexual nature. There are other types of harassment that do not fall under the sexual harassment umbrella. It may be easy to overlook certain conversations or behavior as just being in fun or with no ill intent, but even if no one comes to you and says something makes them uncomfortable, you/the company is obligated to stop the behavior. “It was meant to be a joke” is never a defense in the case of a claim of sexual harassment.
Preventing and Responding to Workplace Sexual Harassment
Create a clear policy based on the guidelines given in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Ensure all employees gain access to your policy, sign an acknowledgment of receipt, and know the policy exists as well as your position of zero tolerance. Provide regular training and keep records of who attended training including when they attended. Best practice is to provide and talk about the policy at orientation and then provide the policy yearly and managerial training every year or so (check out your state’s requirements as they can differ).
Don’t forget to review your policy and your procedures on a regular basis to ensure you are not unintentionally creating an environment that allows a valid claim of sexual harassment. Make updates when Federal or State regulations change that impact any of your locations. Follow up on a regular basis with the offender and the victim(s) to ensure that the expected standard of behavior for your workplace is being followed.
In the end, everyone works productively when they feel supported and protected in the organization. It is not comfortable for anyone to deal with incidents of sexual harassment, but, it is a “must do”!
Always take a claim of sexual harassment seriously and conduct an appropriate investigation. If there is evidence that someone did engage in inappropriate behavior, enroll that individual in a training program designed to address his or her specific offense.
In the free HR webinar I spoke on, I share additional important information on sexual harassment. Click here to view our free HR webinar recording to earn free HRCI & SHRM credits.
Mercer PeoplePro has experience delivering sexual harassment training and materials ready to deliver training to your organization. Training materials include both Federal and State regulations and can even be delivered via webinar. The webinar can be recorded for use with new hires as needed. Visit us at mercerpeoplepro.com to request a free consultation today.
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