Sexual harassment is a serious workplace issue for both employers and employees. When an employee is sexually harassed, it can affect his or her confidence and productivity, can make him or her uncomfortable at work, and can lead to stress, loss of sleep, and depression.
Employers should strive to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, not only because it negatively affects the employee victims, but because it also subjects the employer to the risk of suit. Despite the risks sexual harassment poses for all involved, many employees continue to face sexual harassment in the workplace.
How can businesses protect employees from sexual harassment and protect themselves from being sued? Below are some suggestions from foremost Atlanta employment attorneys at Barrett and Farahany.
Have a Clear Sexual Harassment Policy in Place
The first step in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is to have a clear workplace policy against sexual harassment that is readily visible to all employees. The ideal harassment policy will define sexual harassment, will include examples of behavior that is considered to be sexual harassment, will outline the chain of command for reporting, and will specify consequences for violating the policy. The policy should be distributed to all employees in writing, should require acknowledgment by signature, and should be made a part of each employee's personnel record.
Legal Advice and Counseling
Employers should consult with legal counsel to be certain that the sexual harassment policy they are using or considering is in fully in line with federal and state laws related to sexual harassment.
A clearly worded and widely distributed harassment policy affords little protection to employers or employees if sexual harassment at the workplace is tolerated in practice. Employees should be encouraged to promptly report any incident of sexual harassment. In response, the employee's complaint should be documented and thoroughly investigated and addressed by the employer. The employer should resolve the complaint in strict accord with the company's sexual harassment policy.
HR personnel should have a working knowledge of the employer's sexual harassment policy and should be properly trained in handling sexual harassment complaints. Ideally, the HR staff should provide regular company-wide training on sexual harassment, including how to recognize sexual harassment, how and to whom employees should report, and what disciplinary action an employee can expect for violating the policy.
Keep Communication Open
Many victims of sexual harassment do not come forward for fear of retaliation or termination. Employers should strive to maintain an open-door policy, listen carefully to employee concerns about sexual harassment, and respond quickly and appropriately to resolve the issue.
Need additional advice on sexual harassment in the workplace? For a complimentary consultation with an attorney, contact Barrett and Farahany today at (404) 238-7299.