How To Avoid Sexual Harassment Claims

Today,  NBC announced long-time Today Show host Matt Lauer has been fired because of sexual harassment allegations.  Recently, sexual harassment claims against film producer Harvey Weinstein have been all over the news.  Allegedly,  Weinstein sexually assaulted and harassed women over four decades, dating back to the 1970s.  Sexual harassment is reprehensible and should never occur.

To prevent sexual harassment from occurring, and to make your workplace safer,  follow these tips:

  1. Train Your Workforce-  Conduct sexual harassment training annually so that your employees know what sexual harassment is, who to report complaints to, that complaints will be investigated promptly and thoroughly, and that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
  2. Maintain And Distribute A Strong Policy-  You must have a policy which clearly defines sexual harassment, has a clear complaint procedure, states that all complaints will be investigated and prompt, corrective action will be taken to address substantiated complaints.   The policy should be distributed to all employees and posted on the real or virtual employee bulletin or information board.
  3. Be Alert- Be aware of what is occurring in the workplace.  Are there calendars or other postings with  inappropriate pictures?  Dirty jokes or sexual innuendos via email? Banter with sexual content?  All of these things should be stopped as soon as you become aware of them, even if no one complains.
  4. Investigate – All complaints must be investigated promptly and thoroughly, even if the complainant asks you not to investigate it or says she will handle it herself. This also applies to reports of harassment or inappropriate conduct happening outside of work or at a Halloween or other holiday event.
  5.  Take Prompt, Corrective Action-  If the investigation substantiates that harassment occurred take prompt, corrective action designed to resolve the issue once and for all.  This may mean a verbal discussion, a written warning, or termination, depending on the circumstances.  But as NBC did with Lauer, take action without delay, no matter who is involved and no matter how important they are to your organization.

Following these tips will result in a safer workplace, happier employees, and lower legal costs.


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