5 Ways of Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a severe issue, and employers still have a lot to do to weed out this problem. It isn’t just a legal responsibility; sexual harassment has an impact on performance. But how do you prevent sexual harassment in your workplace? To answer this, we have compiled some tips to help you cultivate a sexual harassment-free workplace.​

1. Create a workplace sexual harassment policy

The first place to start is to create a workplace sexual harassment policy that clearly defines sexual harassment, the standpoint of the company towards sexual harassment, and the consequences to perpetrators.

Every business needs a sexual harassment policy template ready to go.

The company should illustrate examples of sexual harassment behavior to make it clear for all workplace environment stakeholders to understand.​

Ensure that your company sexual harassment policy covers the following core aspects:

  • Definition of sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Your company’s standpoint on sexual harassment
  • Complaint procedure in case of employee harassment
  • Let employees know that if they are found guilty of sexual harassment in your workplace, corrective action will be taken

2. Sexual harassment training

A sexual harassment policy document can cover several aspects of sexual harassment prevention, but this won’t translate to results if the employer hasn’t cultivated a culture of equality in the workplace; this is why you also need a practical and sincere sexual harassment training program.

The use of the words “practical and sincere” when we refer to sexual harassment training is important. Yes, it’s not just about doing the usual corporate training where your employees go through a lecture of PowerPoint presentations on sexual harassment, and then each employee signs an attendance sheet which proves they attended the training.

Practical and sincere sexual harassment training programs is more than that. Practical and sincere training should spark a workplace culture that focuses on and rejects sexual harassment, terrible behaviors, from the leadership down to the rank and file.

3. Monitor inappropriate behavior in the workplace

Don’t assume that all is well just because you haven’t received any sexual harassment complaints. Most victims of workplace sexual harassment suffer in silence, and most violations go unreported. Studies have shown that victims of sexual harassment are less likely to report violations if they have a close connection, either personal or professional, with the perpetrator. It is thus essential to keep your eyes and ears open for any signs of inappropriate behavior.

4. Offer complaint channels & resolve complaints

It is an excellent idea to appoint someone to be the company complaint representative. This person’s duties will be to receive all complaints and ensure that leadership is aware of them. Whats more?

  • Confront all sexual harassment issues with an open mind.
  • Always act on any complaints that crop up from employees. Don’t let any claims slip, fester, or become stale.
  • Thorough investigations are mandatory. Confidentiality should be the goal; however, it can not be guaranteed.
  • Once the investigation is complete, and it is found that an employee violated the company’s sexual harassment policy, corrective action must be taken!

​All companies should have a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment.

5. Support sexual harassment victims from retaliation

One of the biggest challenges with reporting sexual harassment in the workplace is retaliation. Sexual harassment retaliation refers to a scenario where an employee is punished for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination. For example:

  • The employee might get their shift taken away
  • He/she might be demoted
  • He/she might be given a pay cut with no explanation
  • He/she might be fired

Besides the fear of losing their job, the possibility of retaliation is why many victims or witnesses fail to report sexual harassment and instead choose to suffer in silence. A solution to employees’ fears is for employers, managers, and supervisors to make it known that they wholeheartedly support employees who bring their harassment complaints forward. Moreover, the company must make it clear that it will not tolerate any form of retaliation.

Preventing sexual harassment retaliation​ in the workplace must become as natural as walking to the water fountain.

Retaliation is one of the biggest reasons why victims or witnesses fear reporting sexual harassment and instead choose to suffer in silence. A solution to revenge is to not only let employees feel comfortable reporting harassment but also supporting those who come forward.

Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace must become as natural as walking to the water fountain.

Note: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing sexual harassment laws.

Here is an example of a situation of workplace sexual harassment.

Bill Jenkins is the one-month new hire in the Hog Industries Meat Packing section just outside of Gary, Indiana. Bill told his co-worker John Henry that he’s been trying to get hired with the company for eight months because he knew there was some sweet honey within these walls that he couldn’t wait to meet.

John Henry cautioned Bill that Hog Industries Meat Packing has a firm policy designed to prevent sexual harassment.  John replied to Bill that he is not worried about a little policy on preventing sexual harassment because the women will never report him for requesting sexual favors because he is such an excellent Casanova.

One week after John Henry cautioned Bill about the firm company policy on stopping sexual harassment in the workplace, Bill cornered three women in the break room after everyone left.  Bill told Mary Smith, Jane White, and Cynthia Twoletter that they needed to meet him at his apartment at 112 East Broad Street at 6 PM for an evening of private lovemaking.

Bill went on to tell the ladies that he looks forward to spending a memorable night with them.

All three of the women told Bill that meeting him at his apartment after work was out of the question and that they were going to report his unwelcome behavior to the plant manager Mr. Berrymore.

Bill replied to the ladies that Mr. Berrymore was a close friend of his, and there is no way that Mr. Berrymore would believe them over him.

On the following morning, Mary Smith, Jane White, and Cynthia Hightower met with Mr. Berrymore in the front office.  They explained what happened.  Mr. Berrymore was surprised that Bill allegedly said the things that the ladies reported to him.  He told them that he would look into this incident and get back to them.

Mr. Berrymore conducted an internal investigation and discovered that Bill Jenkins asked four other female employees to meet him at his apartment last week.

When Mr. Berrymore interviewed Bill Jenkins and confronted him with the allegations of seven employees, Bill confessed that he did ask for sexual favors from the women.  Bill went on to admit that he did ask some women to come to his apartment.  Just before the interview was over, Bill told Mr. Berrymore that he did not mean any harm.

Mr. Berrymore informed Bill that he sent him to the company prevention of sexual harassment training, which was designed to prevent this kind of issue.  Additionally, the prevention of sexual harassment policy letter was given to him after he completed the sexual harassment training.

The investigation confirmed that while on the job, Bill engaged in unwelcome verbal acts of sexual harassment by asking co-workers to meet him at his apartment.

The following day Bill Jenkins was terminated.


Select the best answer.

All of the following are examples of retaliation cover in this article, except?

  • The employee might get their shift taken away.
  • He/she might be demoted
  • Getting promoted to a higher paying position
  • He/she might be given a pay cut with no explanation
  • He/she might be fired

 Answer Key: See: Support Sexual Harassment Victims

Have you been the victim, witness, or even perpetrator of workplace sexual harassment?  Share your experience and comments below.

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