Sexual harassment is a situation whereby an individual either male or female make sexual advances or utter unwelcome sexual related words that have the purpose or effect of creating an embarrassing, hostile, humiliating or offensive environment to another person. It is not mutually agreed upon; it is different from a consensual interaction, flirtation or friendship. It is not only suffered among women but men as well.
It is a serious issue in today’s workplaces and should not be taken lightly, for it is punishable by law, regardless of how insignificant some harassers take it to be.
Sexual harassment at the workplace could take different forms, either verbally or non-verbally. It could come from a coworker, a supervisor, employer, a work-related function or a client, either way, what’s important is to know what to do and how to manage such situations.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is detrimental to workers mentally, physically and financially, it makes morale and productivity low while employers also face significant costs related to it. Asides the fact that employers potentially face legal costs associated with harassment claims, any company that fails to address it can affect is productivity which may lead to increased absenteeism and turnover.
The following are effective ways to deal with sexual harassment at your workplace as an employer;
Create an anti-harassment policy
To ensure a harassment-free workplace, it is important to develop a clear anti-harassment policy that your employer must agree to. The policy should outline, the need for your employer to know what sexual harassment is, the boundaries you set for it, state the consequences and what you intend to do if anyone crosses the line. This is important so that your employer knows what will happen if also found guilty of sexual harassment.
Some people do not report harassment at their workplace because of the fear of losing their jobs or losing opportunities for promotion. It is very important to add provisions to prevent such actions.
You must endeavor to ensure that the sexual harassment policy of the company where you work states that all claims of sexual harassment must be investigated, and harassers will be duly punished according to the law.
Encourage a Professional working environment
To reduce or prevent sexual harassment, it is important that you encourage a professional environment by disallowing and discouraging colleagues from using profanity, terms of endearment, saying inappropriate jokes or having conversations related to sexual topics while at work. This does not mean that you can’t be friendly with your coworkers or make jokes with them; it only means that it has to be professional.
Keep a record of the harassment
It is important to document any experience of sexual harassment at your workplace, because the harasser(s) may try to defend themselves. So keep a record of how it started, be very specific; write down dates, places, times, and possible witnesses to what happened. If other co-workers are going through the same thing, you can ask them to also write down their experiences. It is also important to keep these records safe; it should not be kept at the office but at your home, where it will be easy for you to access in case something happens at work. Also, keep in mind that you need to be as accurate and objective as possible.
The following are effective ways to deal with sexual harassment at your workplace as an employee;
Confide in a trusted colleague
The funny thing about sexual harassment at work is that it can come from anyone; it could be from a co-worker, your supervisor or even your employer. If the harassment becomes embarrassing or threatening, then you need to talk to someone, you should do this safely so as not to fuel office rumor, so talk to the people you can trust at work.
You will be surprised at what you might discover, like witnesses, allies, or those that have been harassed by the same person and would be willing to help by giving you all the support you need in the proper handling of the harassment. Confiding in someone at your workplace will not only give you the needed support; it can also serve as important evidence much later.
File a complaint
If you have complained at your workplace severally about the harassment, and nothing has been done about it, then it is safe to take legal steps. Inform your lawyer about the harassment, stating how it started to receive legal counsel on how the situation should be dealt with.
You will need to provide all your pieces of evidence based on the records you must have kept, witnesses from work, or others that have also experienced the harassment from the same person must be involved so that the necessary legal actions can be effectively taken by your lawyer.