Sexual harassment. That's not exactly a topic most business owners are eager to talk about. Its not a popular or fun subject and certainly something that most hope never to have to deal with. Ever. But the fact is there are thousands of sexual harassment claims made each year. According to the EEOC there were 88,778 claims made in fiscal year 2014. Those claims resulted in thousands of sexual harassment lawsuits, which you can imagine are expensive and not so good for your brand. (That's a double hit to your bottom line.)
While you cant control employee behavior completely, you can create a strategy to minimize tour risk and decrease the chances that your business with be faced with a sexual harassment lawsuit. Being proactive is the best defense. Some employers do this better than others. Through my experience I've noticed a few common mistakes that small employers make when it comes to handling sexual harassment in their businesses. I don't want you to make those mistakes because they are completely avoidable. So I'm going to share with what they are, then some practical steps to help you get it right.
#1 They don't investigate claims of sexual harassment
Not investigating claims of sexual harassment or not investigating thoroughly is a frequent mistake made by small employers. There are many reasons why this happens, but usually time, skill and attitude are the main contributing factors.
Time: As a business owner, you wear many hats. Between managing your employees, marketing your business, taking care of your customers, there may simply not be enough time to do a proper investigation. Or the investigation may just get lost in the pile of other stuff on your desk.
Skill: Other times entrepreneurs may not know how to investigate a claim of sexual harassment. This isn't a topic covered in most business workshops or courses, so it is likely that you've received no training what-so-ever on this topic. So it would be understandable to not feel super confident with this process.
Attitude: This may be the most difficult of the reasons to overcome. In this case, the person making the claim of sexual harassment isn't taken seriously. The business owner may feel that the employee making the claim is being too sensitive or that they deserve the treatment. Or there may be some favoritism towards the person being accused of the harassment. This can be especially challenging in family businesses where the accused person could be a relative of the business owner.
How to Get It RIght
#2 They don't train employees on sexual harassment prevention
Training is so easily over looked. But if employees aren't educated on sexual harassment and understand the types of behavior that are considered sexual harassment then preventing sexual harassment becomes a huge challenge. Employees need to know exactly what your expectations are for them and the behaviors that will not be tolerated. You simply cannot assume they know this information. Once an employee completes training they are now accountable for their behavior. There are no excesses for unacceptable conduct. Its also the easiest thing that you can do as employer to reduce sexual harassment and ensure that all of your employees understand how to report sexual harassment claims.
How to Get It Right
#3 They allow a culture of inappropriate behavior to develop
Inappropriate behavior left unchecked is a disaster waiting to happen. This inappropriate behavior becomes a culture that breeds sexual harassment. These behaviors may on the surface be harmless. For example an employee may hang a calendar with bikini clad models on their desk, or you may over hear an employee make comments about another employee's body. How you address or choose not to address these issues will determine the type of culture that develops in your company. By remaining silent, or even worse participating in behaviors that may be offensive to someone quickly creates a culture where sexual harassment is condoned. This happens whether it is your intent or not. Silence is not golden when it comes to sexual harassment.
How to Get It Right
Hey, so I know you're ready to get your employees started with a sexual harassment course......
Here you go! This course is designed to train non-management employees on sexual harassment prevention. Your employees can take this course from any device that have internet access which makes it super convenient for any business.
Your employees will learn
It is easy to enroll your employees and administer the course for your business. We do all of the set up and you also receive an email confirmation when your employees complete the course. You can visit the course page to find out more about this course and get your employees enrolled.
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