Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Editor's Note: Today's blog post is brought to you by HR Plus Co-Founder and President, Rebecca Page.
Catch a recording of her webinar, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace HERE.
ICaution! Although harassment it is not currently dominating the headlines of the media, the charges against employers continue to rise. The EEOC has recovered nearly $70 million for the victims of sexual harassment through litigation and administrative enforcement in FY 2018; which is up from $47.5 million in FY 2017. This does not include all the other fines for other protected classes, such as race, religion, age, disability or veteran status; to name a few.
If an employer takes the perspective of “not us” or “it won’t happen here”, they are rolling the dice on a potentially large financial cost and damage to their reputation which affects recruitment and retention. Just a quick glance at the EEOC website gives you a good idea of the vast number of lawsuits and fines being settled throughout the country—and these are just the cases being reported on!
How does your organization’s internal culture compare to how your culture is portrayed externally? Have you read your company reviews on Glassdoor? Glassdoor is a very powerful tool when it comes to examining your company’s reputation amongst employees, and potential employees. The power of social media never ceases to amaze me. There is no such thing as “flying under the radar” anymore, and those who feel they have something to say, sure do find a platform to air their grievances!
We understand that business owners and operators are busier than ever these days. Juggling day to day tasks can be overwhelming but the day of just having a simple harassment policy that every employee signs but doesn’t necessarily read is over. As a leader, it’s imperative that you push the piles of paper off of your desk, turn off your email, and get back to focusing on establishing the basics of positive corporate culture and harassment prevention and you will be able to sleep better at night. Here are a few places to start:
Be in the Know!
Make sure you know both the federal and state protected classes as they can differ by state. For example; states like Colorado protect employees that are engaging in any lawful activity off the premises of the employer during nonworking hours. And, North Carolina protects employees with sickle-cell trait or hemoglobin C, while Oregon protects employees with a degree in theology or serving in a religious occupation.
Have an Employee Handbook.
This employee handbook should include a policy against workplace harassment, a policy against sexual harassment, a procedure for reporting harassment, and the policies in place for retaliation. It should also be mandated in the employee handbook, and become a force of habit that all staff is regularly trained on harassment and your company’s policies and procedures. Managers should also monitor company culture; sometimes an issue can be addressed before it becomes a major problem.
Have a Plan for an Investigation.
Many small businesses don’t have an HR specialist or attorney on staff, but when faced with an employee filing for harassment, it’s vital that your business has a plan in place to obtain assistance from a professional HR consultant, or competent employment attorney.Most importantly, you will want to obtain buy-in from the highest levels of your organization. Fair and respectful treatment should not be looked at as another box to check, but as a cornerstone of your culture. You see the rewards when you have a strong corporate culture, high employee morale and retention—the rewards far outweigh the time that is put in!
Since 2003, Human Resources Plus (HRP) passionately believes that all businesses should have access to the same quality HR resources and guidance but at an affordable cost. Recently, we have developed a Sexual & Unlawful Harassment Toolkit that gives organizations sample policies, checklists, sample investigation questions, and other valuable information that will provide a foundation for limiting risk and protection of employees.
A graduate from Illinois State University, Rebecca moved to Colorado in 1982 and worked in the airline and payroll software industry at the beginning of her career. In 1994 Rebecca was hired as the Vice-President of Human Resources for Cordillera, a 7,000 acre premier golf community in the Vail Valley. Her primary responsibility was to manage a 6-person Human Resource Department that provided HR Services including Recruitment & Selection, Benefits & Safety Administration, Compensation Management, Training & Development and Corporate Strategic Planning for the 600+ employees during the Companies growth and reorganization phases. Rebecca’s specialties include Strategic HR Management, Benefits Administration, Finance, Employee Coaching, and State and Federal Employment Law. Rebecca lives in Denver and enjoys entertaining, hiking and volunteering for non-profits.