Successful Completion: Complete entire module, complete the exam with a passing score of 80% or better, and complete the evaluation form
Estimated Time to Complete Activity: 60 minutes
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The purpose of this self-study educational module is to define sexual harassment and related terms. Managers will know how to respond to and identify sexual harassment. Managers will understand their role in preventing sexual harassment.
Sexual Harassment for Managers
Table of Contents:
Sexual harassment comes in many forms, and is one of the top issues in the workplace. In order to effectively prevent sexual harassment, there must be a clear understanding of what sexual harassment is and what it entails. Sexual harassment is prohibited by law, and the laws vary by state. Many employers have suffered tremendously from sexual harassment lawsuits, which diminishes employee morale, inhibits productivity and causes a financial strain on the bottom line.
What is sexual harassment?
A good, working definition of sexual harassment is any sexual advances or unwelcome conduct that may create a hostile, offensive or intimidating work environment. Any conduct or act that makes another employee feel uncomfortable or embarrassed has the potential to be considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment occurs at all levels within the organization, so each employee’s allegations must be treated with the same degree of concern and respect.
How do you know whether or not the act is considered sexual harassment?
Since sexual harassment comes in many forms, there are many different scenarios that can contribute. Here are a few examples:
A male worker making sexual innuendos to his fellow female coworkers.
A manager implying to a subordinate that they can sleep with them for a promotion.
An employee fondling or pinching another coworker without their permission and against their will.
Employees willfully posting sexual jokes on the interoffice bulletin board.
An employee sending explicit emails and jokes to other employees through email.
Offending a vendor or customer with sexually explicit jokes.
Who can be sexually harassed?
Sexual harassment can occur with anyone, of any gender. Although the majority of sexual harassment claims are filed by women, it is not unheard of for a male to report unwanted advances from a female coworker or superior.
How can sexual harassment be prevented?
Having a sexual harassment policy is the first step in preventing this from taking place in the work environment. This policy should have its own chapter in the employee handbook, with additional materials (posters, flyers, trainings) available and clearly visible throughout the building. The policy should contain the following:
The definition of sexual harassment.
A statement of position from the chairman of the company supporting the sexual harassment policy.
A statement conveying the company’s position regarding sexual harassment, how the company will not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace, and that any offenders will be disciplined which may or may not include termination.
A statement and outline of the complaints procedure and process, including who to contact, and where the designated person can be found.
A statement about the investigative process, alerting all employees that every allegation will be taken seriously and fully investigated.
A statement on retaliation – what it means and what will happen to those employees who have been accused of sexual harassment and are taking retaliatory actions against the complainant.
Additional steps to be taken:
Each employee must be thoroughly trained on sexual harassment, what it means to have an environment free of sexual harassment, demonstrations of what sexual harassment is, how to file a claim against someone, and an overview of the entire policy. Sexual harassment training should be conducted at a minimum, once a year to make sure every employee is aware of the policy and unacceptable behavior.
The executive and management team must also be thoroughly trained on the sexual harassment policy. Their session should go in depth on how to deal with an employee who comes to them to report another, how to work with Human Resources, and how to make sure their departments are in compliance.
Final steps to a complete sexual harassment policy
Even with a policy in place, it must be carried out by the Human Resources department. They are ultimately responsible for creating an environment where employees can work safely and free from intimidating or unwanted behavior. Management and Human Resources should:
Closely monitor the workplace.
Routinely checking on employees and the environment as a whole will make a difference. When employees know you care about preventing sexual harassment, they will be more likely to comply.
Do not discount any claims.
Take every sexual harassment claim seriously. Investigate all allegations as soon as they are made. This will ensure a quick and prompt resolution.
Every employee needs to feel that they are important. By taking action against offenders, it will set a standard within the workplace that will work effectively in preventing these situations to occur. It is important to treat all employees the same, whether they are managers or subordinates. Everyone should have a fair and unbiased environment in which to work and contribute to the bottom line for the overall success of the company. A firm, standing policy is the first step in ensuring this takes place.
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