Both sexes are affected by sexual harassment. Acccording to a recent poll, one-in-four women and one-in-ten men have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
The ABC News/Washington Post poll found that a majority of the public (69 percent or women and 59 percent of men) consider workplace sexual harassment a problem.
What is sexual harassment? In a recent article, BLR legal editor Joan Farrell, J.D., discussed what conduct generally violates harassment laws. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Federal laws prohibit workplace harassment that’s based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Some state laws protect additional characteristics like sexual orientation and gender identity.
Although legal standards for workplace harassment sometimes vary a bit under federal versus state law, a person’s conduct generally violates harassment laws when it is based on protected characteristic, is unwelcome, and results in either a tangible employment action (firing, demotion) or is so severe or pervasive that it creates an unlawfully hostile work environment. (Read more.)
What can employers do? Employers can take steps to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. One of the first ways is to establish a clear company policy on sexual harassment. Employers then need to communicate the policy to everyone in the organization.
Training employees on the topic of sexual harassment can also be an effective deterrent. Training can help employees recognize sexual harassment and understand when and how they should report an incident. Holding a training session can also show employees you care about their well-being.
It’s also important for supervisors to understand the legal and policy requirements surrounding sexual harassment. Providing supervisors sexual harassment training can help them:
- recognize what constitutes illegal sexual harassment;
- handle complaints effectively;
- participate in investigations; and
- take appropriate corrective action.