For years, sexual abuse has been lurking in the shadows of workplaces. Many offices have been breeding grounds for all kinds of sexual offenders, and unfortunately, many offenses have been swept under the carpet.
In the last few years, the story has been different. A combination of gender activism and the Me Too movement has triggered an uprising against sexual harassment in all spheres. From CEOs to employees, the uprising has exposed and brought down several sex offenders who were committing atrocious acts in secret.
For businesses, preventing sexual harassment must be top of the agenda. The mere suspicion of sexual harassment in a business can jeopardize your reputation and results in lawsuits. Here are a few things you must put in place to ensure you rid your company of every trace of sexual harassment.
Have a Clear Company Policy
Would a sexually suggestive joke count as sexual harassment? What about unwelcome hugs? For many employees, there are tons of questions about sexual harassment and where to draw the line.
Your job as an employer is to clear the air. Make sure there are no doubts about the types of behaviors that are not permissible. And make sure you spell out these guidelines into a company policy handbook. Some of the things you should include in your policy guide are:
- A clear definition of sexual harassment
- Examples of acts that constitute sexual harassment
- A guideline on how victims can file a complaint
- Penalties and sanctions for any offender
- Clear instructions to managers and supervisors on how to ensure rights are enforced
Train and Retrain Employees on Sexual Harassment
Having a written code of conduct is not enough. You’ll need to take the extra step and make sure that employees follow the rules. The first way to do that is to train them.
Organize seminars and conferences about sexual abuse at least once a year. Invite experts and professionals who can help your employees appreciate their limits, as well as the fallouts of their actions. For instance, knowing that sexual offenders can incur sentences of up to 27 years can be a deterrent. Be intentional about making respect and decorum for others a critical part of your company culture.
Encourage Victims to Come Forward
Many victims of sexual abuse have had cause to shelve their experience and never speak about it. For most of them, the culture of shame and the eyes of suspicion that might be raised are too much to bear.
It falls on companies to create a conducive environment for victims to speak without fear of retaliation. Remember that no incident is small or trivial. Treat every complaint with a sense of urgency. That way, others will come forward knowing that the company will listen and protect them. Always keep your lines of communication open.
Don’t Be Lax About Enforcement
Unfortunately, many sexual offenders have gotten away with paying for their actions. As soon as someone complains, start a comprehensive investigation. And if the offender is to be found to be at fault, make sure you are swift and decisive in enforcing sanctions.
Monitor and Review
Consistent monitoring of your workplace can help you spot incidents and observe patterns that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. Some companies have set up a sexual harassment team within their staff. These teams are responsible for handling sexual complaints and making recommendations for the buy-in of decision-makers.
Additionally, make sure you continually review your efforts to stop the harassment. What worked yesterday may not suffice for today’s world. Keep tabs on trends and best practices and adapt accordingly.
Don’t allow your business to be neck-deep in a legal dispute before taking steps to address sexual harassment complaints. Your company must be intent on helping rid the world of all kinds of abuses – particularly sexual violence. Take advantage of the tips shared in this article to help your company become an example to others.