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How Employers Can Address Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Claims of sexual harassment and assault have run rampant in recent weeks


Complaints and allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace are making daily headlines and raising concerns among many employers and their teams. What can company leaders do to help prevent these situations and effectively address any reported complaints?

Here are three steps human resource managers and employers can take to put the proper policies, training and processes in place:


Ensure there is a company sexual harassment policy in place and that it is up to date. Sample policies, available on the Employers Council or US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission websites, can be a great resource and starting point. If a company has an existing policy, it may be helpful to have an expert, such as Employers Council, review and confirm it includes all the critical elements and offer any suggestions for improvement. For example, policies should address areas such as prohibited conduct, complaint resolution procedures, confidentiality and disciplinary actions. 


Offer training to all managers and employees to help them understand and recognize what behavior is acceptable and what is not. For example, consider sessions that share real-life scenarios, allowing attendees to learn and discuss how to properly handle various situations. Human resource managers should also complement any sexual harassment training with classes on the broader topics of discrimination in the workplace and workplace respect. Training gives employees greater knowledge on the subject and insights into their own behaviors, and it’s also the right thing for leaders to do to offer a measure of protection to their company and their employees.  


Strive to create a workplace culture that resists harassment and encourages employees to speak up when an incident occurs. This can be facilitated through ongoing training, as well as ensuring the company’s sexual harassment policy is known and followed, thus helping to reduce instances of harassment and increase employees’ willingness to report inappropriate behavior. Often times, employees say that the fear of losing their jobs is what prevents them from reporting an issue or coming forward. Additionally, if two employees witness sexual harassment, both may believe the other will report the incident, or each employee might assume that if no one is intervening the behavior must be appropriate. Leaders may also need to review their company culture and related values and behaviors. For example, a highly male-dominated organization that promotes or accepts a masculine culture, such as “locker room talk,” tends to downplay sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is a serious matter in the workplace. Having the proper plans, processes and policies in place can help contribute to a no-tolerance culture, making employees feel more comfortable and productive. 

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Lorrie Ray

Lorrie Ray is director of member engagement at Employers Council in Denver. Ray's experience in the variety of problems typically facing employers includes resolution of civil rights cases before state and federal administrative agencies, federal wage and hour disputes and state law claims, employment discrimination, wrongful discharge and health and safety laws. She is also a frequent lecturer on employment law matters. Previous to working at Employers Council, Ray worked at the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Solicitor for a little over three years, prosecuting wage and hour cases for the Department.

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