Fighting sexual harassment in the workplace

The recent sexual harassment allegations made against numerous celebrities and the subsequent social media driven ‘Me too’ campaign, in which thousands of women stood in solidarity with the victims who have accused these celebrities by sharing their own stories has brought the issue of sexual harassment into sharp focus and forced society to begin taking the issue more seriously. Sexual harassment can be defined as any unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature, the result of this behaviour can make the recipient feel uncomfortable, intimated or humiliated.

One of the most common places in which sexual harassment occurs is in the workplace. Employers are obligated to maintain a safe and secure workplace, and that includes preventing sexual harassment. It’s not only good for your employees, it’s good for you because knowing what sexual harassment is and having policies in place for preventing and dealing with it will save you a lot of headaches and costly lawsuits. Sexual harassment is prosecuted under the same laws used to prosecute employers for race and religious discrimination, so it’s important for employers to take it just as seriously as other forms of discrimination. Whilst males sexually harassing women constitutes the vast majority of cases, it is in fact gender-neutral and men can also be a victim of sexual harassment.

How to help prevent sexual harassment?

  • Create a clear, concise sexual harassment policy: make sure you have a sexual harassment policy in place which defines sexual harassment, explicitly sets forth that sexual harassment is not tolerated, explains the consequences and sets forth a process for reporting and investigating complaints.
  • Monitor the workplace : make it a regular practice to talk to your employees and ask them in private and confidentially about their working environment to ensure you are doing all you can in order to prevent.
  • Encourage employees to come forward : ensure employees feel comfortable about sharing their experiences by making it clear that anything they tell you will be kept confidential and will not in any way affect their career opportunities.
  • Take complaints seriously and investigate : take all complaints extremely seriously and perform a thorough investigation. If the complaint has any basis, ensure the correct measures are taken.

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