Shruti Garg is an engineer and works as an analyst at a travel company. Apart from academics, she has penchant for traveling and reading. She wants to gain as much knowledge as possible and share the same for the betterment of the society.
How to recognise and start tackling sexual harassment in the workplace
The #MeToo campaign, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein allegations, has seen millions of women, from all parts of the world reporting their own victimisation and mistreatment in the workplace and beyond. Sexual harassment is not a new phenomenon, but we are witnessing a cultural shift in the way we think and talk about issues that were once considered taboo or inevitable.
Read more here: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
Range of Responses:
At workplace, women are likely to use a variety of coping methods to deal with sexual harassment, depending on the context and the severity of the behaviour such as denial and avoidance of the perpetrator, to talking to friends, relatives and colleagues. This is far less likely to be successful than direct confrontation in stopping harassment. But, because of the fear – and risks – of retaliation when confronting a harasser, it is far less likely to be chosen as a response. The same goes for formal reporting.
We have an obligation to make workplaces safe environments that will foster dignity and acceptance.
Steps businesses should take to foster a compliant workplace
Business owners and managers should strive to create a workplace culture where harassment of any kind is not tolerated. It is important to have a qualified, HR professional or attorney to help you create policies and procedures for a safe and compliant work environment.
All employers should work with their HR representative on the following well before an incident even has a chance to happen:
1) Develop a written policy about harassment in the workplace
Complaint procedures should be clear so that employees and managers understand expectations and the process that will result in case of an incident. Be sure that your policy is drafted in compliance with any applicable federal, state and local laws.
2) Communicate with employees
Employees should be required to acknowledge, with a signature, that they have received the policy during on-boarding process. This acknowledgement of receipt should be kept in their personnel file.
3) Train employees
Training is required in many states and a best practice even when not required. Again, your HR service provider can be helpful with providing compliant in-person or via online training for all employees.
4) Emphasize the role leadership has in combatting harassment
It’s also important to take the time to really train all managers on the need to bring every incident to the attention of HR and senior leadership so that a prompt and thorough investigation can be performed.
5) What to do if an employee reports possible sexual harassment
All claims of sexual harassment in the workplace should be taken seriously, and investigated promptly and thoroughly by a qualified investigator. If you are not a trained investigator or employment attorney, your role upon receiving such a report should be limited to:
- Listening to the employee and letting them know you truly appreciate them bringing forward their concerns.
- Letting them know that you are going to reach out to your HR representative immediately and that they will take control of the company’s response.
- Immediately contacting your HR representative for guidance.
- Staying out of the way of the investigator assigned to conduct the investigation.
- After the investigation is concluded, participating (as requested) in discussions about how to move forward.
- Helping to implement corrective action, if corrective action is warranted.
Author’s Note: After a huge information load on sexual harassment at workplace, I would recommend all of you to watch a series of short films, that are designed to empower people to report sexual harassment and get companies to reform their workplaces, filmed by widely known ‘Friends’ star, David Schwimmer, who is hoping to help the #Metoo movement with another hashtag: #ThatsHarassment