Sexual Harassment issues are in the news. How can I ensure that my company is creating an environment of support for victims and following all legal requirements?
Handling complaints of sexual harassment the right way may keep employees from filing a case with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that investigates these types of complaints.
Best Practices on the proper handling of complaints are outlined below.
- Understand what sexual harassment is. Sexual harassment is the unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature that is made a term or feature of an individual’s employment or creates a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is the most common and can be physical, verbal or visual.
- Create an environment of mutual respect among all employees. Leadership should lead by example and make it clear to all managers and employees that this type of behavior will not be tolerated.
- A confidential process for reporting alleged harassment is critical. Investigators must be prompt and thorough. Even anonymous complaints must be investigated. Results of an investigation are confidential and should be released only on a “need to know” basis.
- If allegations are found to be true, action should be taken in accordance with company policy and federal and state laws. Consequences should be administered fairly and consistently.
- Leadership must make it clear that retaliation of the complainant will not be tolerated. Retaliation is upheld in more cases investigated by the EEOC than the facts of the initial harassment complaint.
- Preventive training is key. Federal law requires managers in companies with 50 or more employees to take two hours of training within six months of becoming a supervisor, and at least once every two years. States may have more stringent guidelines. The company must keep records of all training.
- Although not required by law, training for employees is encouraged. This will ensure a common understanding of prohibited behavior and the company’s commitment to a harassment-free environment.
Lenders Compliance Group® can provide training to managers and employees or assist with sexual harassment policies and investigative procedures. A good place to start would be to have us conduct our HR Tune-up!™, which provides an overview and action plan for remediation.
Director/Human Resources Compliance
Lenders Compliance Group®