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Zero Tolerance For Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

sexual_harassmentThere has been a deluge of public sexual harassment allegations since the exposure of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. As you have no doubt noticed, the accusations have expanded beyond Hollywood, affecting many industries.

This challenges business leaders to ensure they are creating a safe and positive work environment free from sexual harassment. To achieve this, we can follow these crucial practices:

  • Provide sexual harassment training for staff.
  • Create a “zero tolerance for sexual harassment” culture.
  • Develop and/or update sexual harassment policies and procedures.
  • Ensure that we have a reporting process in place so that we can address reports of sexual harassment immediately.
  • Take appropriate action when warranted.
  • Refrain from retaliating against any staff person who makes a sexual harassment report.

It is advisable to inform your entire business community about steps that you have taken to ensure that your work continues to be a safe environment, protecting employees and customers from sexual harassment.

Many of these practices take anti-sexual harassment policies as a starting point. These policies should include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • A statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the workplace.
  • An easy-to-understand description of prohibited conduct, with examples.
  • A description of the harassment reporting system, which is available to staff who experience harassment as well as those who observe harassment. This system provides multiple, easily accessible avenues to report.
  • A statement that the reporting system will result in a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation.
  • A statement that the identity of an individual who submits a report, a witness who provides information regarding a report, and the target of the complaint, will be kept confidential to the extent possible consistent with a thorough and impartial investigation.
  • A statement that any information gathered as part of an investigation will be kept confidential to the extent possible consistent with a thorough and impartial investigation.
  • An assurance that a manager or other company leader will take immediate and proportionate corrective action if it determines that harassment has occurred.
  • An assurance that an individual who submits a report (of harassment experienced or observed) or a witness who provides information regarding a report will be protected from retaliation by colleagues and supervisors.
  • A statement that any employee who retaliates against an individual who submits a report or provides information regarding a report will be disciplined appropriately.

To help foster a zero-tolerance environment for sexual harassment, businesses can consider “civility training” and bystander intervention training. Civility training promotes the creation of solutions while emphasizing civility and respect. This training has been exemplified by the college campus campaign It’s On Us, which is an outgrowth of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. It emphasizes the notion that assault is not just about a perpetrator and a victim—it’s about every community member doing their part to create a solution.

Let’s add our voices to efforts to end sexual harassment by promoting the notion that no one may subject an employee or customer to any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. We’re sure you pride yourself on providing a safe work environment, but we must all be vigilant about maintaining a work environment that is free from discrimination and harassment. If you would like further information about anti-sexual harassment policies, contact FrancineM@amskier.comFran Mendelowitz, LCSW is a psychotherapist, founder of InterACT NY and an AMSkier Partner.

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