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Five Steps to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Preventing Sexual Harassment

It seems as if everywhere we turn nowadays another high-powered, high-profile name is being implicated in nefarious behavior.  From movie production houses to major corporations, if the news reports are any indication, no company is immune from employees, and even founders, engaging in harassing behavior.  Sexual harassment in the workplace can quickly ruin employee trust, hurt morale and interrupt day-to-day operations.

Not only is sexual harassment an abhorrent and illegal activity, it can also damage the reputation of an otherwise upstanding and successful organization.  With these negatives, however, it isn’t the consequences of the act that are the most disturbing; it’s the fact that sexual harassment in the workplace is entirely preventable in the first place.  From creating a culture that shuns discrimination and improper behavior to ways to increase accountability, here are five solid steps employers need to take to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

Education is Key

When playing Monday morning quarterback with recent news stories, it’s often easy for bystanders to judge what companies should have known, or done, to better protect the victims of sexual harassment.  While there are some cases where toxic culture has allowed or ignored bad behavior, in some cases the perpetrators and witnesses aren’t aware their behavior is problematic.

Employers can help set the right tone by conducting regular sexual harassment training of all levels of employees.  From the c-suite to the mail room, organizations should conduct initial sexual harassment education upon hiring and at regular intervals over the course of employment.  Educating team members on what is and is not acceptable won’t prevent sexual harassment on its own but it is a necessary step in the right direction.

Behavior Starts at the Top

Companies looking to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace need to understand that a workforce will inevitably take direction from leadership.  Establishing a culture where sexual harassment is unacceptable means ensuring your executives, owners and founders talk the talk and walk the walk as well.  Hold those in leadership position to as high or higher a standard.  Allowing even “innocent” comments, flirting or borderline behavior from those in charge can send the wrong message that these actions are acceptable or encouraged by those at the top.

Encourage Reporting

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  When it comes to sexual harassment, discouraging behavior through all means is one of the best courses of prevention available.  Companies should make it clear to their staff that all cases of harassment will be treated seriously.  Consider implementing a policy of anonymous reporting and follow up on any tips.  If employees feel there are no repercussions or viable solutions, the bad apples will feel empowered to act while the victims and witnesses believe they are powerless or that leadership is indifferent.

Enforce Zero Tolerance

Sometimes in business there may be times for unclear boundaries, wiggle room or flexible thinking to get things done.  Sure, this kind of grey may make when it comes to supply systems, outsourcing tasks (such as HR) or ordering paper cups in the office kitchen instead of plastic ones.  When it comes to effectively preventing sexual harassment, however, now is not the time to equivocate.  Whatever the reporting source for a complaint, management should act quickly and decisively when claims of unwanted behavior come to light.

Placing an individual on administrative leave should be built into your HR handbook and should be a go-to tool for showing that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.  Firings and other punitive behavior should be equally as swift, regarding of an individual employee’s seniority or contribution to the company.  Taking these actions helps prevent sexual harassment by showing potential perpetrators that there are no such things as do-over or “oops” when it comes to your employees’ safety and security.

Be Proactive

Our final tip for employees looking to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace is to avoid waiting until you have an issue in the first place.  No matter the size or needs of your business, companies can work with outsourced HR professionals to develop comprehensive training, management and employee policies designed to stop sexual harassment before it occurs.  These types of full service solutions, offered by companies such as Exodus HR Group, help highlight your path to business freedom across a variety of human resources concerns.

At Exodus HR Group, we develop a personalized plan for our clients, assessing their needs and developing a personal relationship to help provide better insights into all aspects of their business.  More than a simple payment processor or timesheet administrator, Exodus is here to be your one stop, human approach to a dedicated outsourced HR solution.  For more information on how Exodus HR can help your business develop comprehensive plans for preventing sexual harassment and other potentially disastrous HR scenarios, contact us today for an initial consultation.

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