Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In a poll taken near the end of 2017, it was found 54 percent of all American women have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances” in their lives--30 percent having experienced it in the workplace.

However, it's not just women who have experienced this unwanted attention: 10 to 20 percent of men have been victims of workplace sexual harassment, and recent headlines have opened up a more devoted discussion to sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as the personal and professional effects that the harassment has on its victims. Seventy-five percent of Americans agree: workplace sexual harassment is a problem that needs to be addressed, and measures must be taken to address workplace harassment.

If you do not currently have measures in place to address this issue, they need to be created and enforced as soon as possible. An employment practices claim can be devastating to your finances and your reputation, and a negative working environment will severely affect your employees’ productivity and overall mental health.

Create Clear Harassment Policies

Establish a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, and make sure that every employee is well aware of it. The policy should be placed in your employee handbook, which should be made easily available to all employees. We also recommend placing a reminder of the policy in a space where employees are likely to see it, such as in your break room or on your bulletin board.

Feel free to add additional measures at your discretion (so long as they are in compliance with federal, local, and state laws). At the minimum your handbook should include the following:

  • A clear definition of general and sexual harassment
  • A clear statement that harassment will not be tolerated
  • A description of the disciplinary actions that will be taken against harassers
  • An explanation on how what to do if an employee witnesses or experiences harassment

Responding to Complaints

If an incident does occur, it is your responsibility as a manager to treat the situation with respect, thoroughly investigate the claim, and ensure that nothing of the sort will happen again. Keep in mind that not all claims of sexual harassment are truthful, but if a complaint is made then it is important to take immediate action to investigate the claim and provide consequences.

As stated above, your workplace policies should include a streamlined procedure for reporting complaints about harassment. Designate who should receive the claims (the employee’s direct supervisor can be this individual, though be sure to include alternatives in the event that the direct supervisor is the harassing party or should otherwise be bypassed), and emphasize that employees will not have their names revealed or receive any other punishments for reporting harassment.

Many employees are reluctant to come forward with claims of harassment because they are afraid of retaliation or other negative consequences. Clarify in your policies that retaliation against individuals filing harassment complaints will absolutely not be tolerated, and do not divulge the details of a complaint to anyone other than the appropriate parties.

Anti-Harassment Training

The most important step to creating a workplace free of harassment is to create a culture that does not condone it. Check the laws: your state may require a certain amount of anti-harassment training. Even if it is not mandated, your employees and supervisors should still receive regular training sessions (at least once per year) to prevent harassment. Employees should be reminded of what sexual harassment is and be reminded of your company’s policies (particularly if they’ve changed), and supervisors should receive training on how to deal with complaints and reminders of state and federal law.

About Axis Insurance Services

At Axis Insurance Services, we aim to help our customers identify their exposures and protect themselves. Founded in 1999, we offer insurance programs to a wide variety of professionals and industries including attorneys, real estate, healthcare, architects, and more, and also have a wholesale division. We pride ourselves on offering flexible insurance coverage tailored specifically to each customer’s needs. To learn more about our solutions, contact us at (201) 847-9175 to speak with one of our professionals.

axis insurance services, harassment policies, EPLI, sexual harassment, Professional Liability, workplace training

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