Employees deserve to work in an environment where they feel comfortable. Most employers would likely agree that sexual harassment is inappropriate. Yet, their definitions may vary.
State and federal laws protect workers from requests for sexual favors, unwelcome physical contact and inappropriate advances. Although you, as an employer, may act appropriately, you must be sure those who report to you treat each other with dignity and respect.
Understand sexual harassment to increase prevention
You could be liable for an offensive or hostile workplace. So, how can you identify and stop sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment refers to inappropriate actions related to an employee’s gender and sexual orientation or gender, in addition to sexually motivated conduct. Inappropriate remarks or behaviors don’t just bother women. Plus, offensive conduct could also interfere with a bystander’s work performance.
Welcome communication so employees feel like they have a safe place to report offensive behavior. Then, provide appropriate training and employment decisions based on complaints which include:
- Sexually suggestive images in posters or workplace communication
- Jokes, anecdotes, comments or gestures with a sexual connotation
- Suggestive stares, sounds, motions, remarks or touches
Employees can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if their concerns go unresolved. Workers in California can also file claims with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Employers commonly work with this state agency to resolve disputes. Keep in mind that it is against the law to retaliate against an employee for seeking external resources, participating in legal proceedings or testifying against you in court.
Meeting training requirements and providing clear expectations of workplace behavior is the best way to mitigate the risk of sexual harassment claims among those in your employ. Protect your interests by making sure you understand the employment regulations to which you’re accountable.