The most visible issue in today’s workforce is that of Sexual Harassment, reports of which have been quickly escalating as the result of the #MeToo movement. In November 2017 research reported by Time magazine:

  • Overall, 62 percent of men and 71 percent of women believe sexual harassment happens at almost all or most workplaces.
  • Almost 50% of women employed in the U.S. have been sexually harassed, whether verbally or physically.

Let’s first level set on the definition of Sexual Harassment which is “unwanted behavior of a sexual nature; verbal, non-verbal or physical“. Perpetrators of such harassment can be managers, colleagues, clients, vendors, and others, whether male or female. Additionally, it does not have to occur in the actual workplace; it can be anywhere two employees are together such as off-site meetings, training, and other business-related events.

As HR professionals, you need be incredibly vigilant to any such claims or even rumors of such behavior.

Following are Key Tips to Support your Vigilance

  1. Revisit your sexual harassment policy and revise it as necessary to be explicit. For example, spell out clearly that sexual harassment includes:
    • Sexual comments or jokes in person or via email
    • Inappropriate touching
    • Staring in a sexually-suggestive manner
  2. Publicize the policy to your entire workforce with strong language that such behavior
    will not be tolerated.
  3. Provide guidelines for your employees on how to handle any sexual harassment, including that employees report such behavior immediately, and information about how an investigation will occur.
  4. Investigate any claims promptly.
  5. Keep employee sources confidential, whenever possible.
  6. Ensure that the employee will not be retaliated against.
  7. Examine your guidelines on company-sponsored events/parties and whether providing alcohol at these parties is in the company’s best interest.
  8. Seek legal advice and counsel when in doubt.
  9. Continuous training for both managers and all employees about the organization’s policy.

In summary, escalate this issue within your workplace and provide a clear understanding, as well as guidelines, for all employees. Your best defense on Sexual Harassment is a well-orchestrated offense.