The “Me Too” movement has shed a light on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace.
According to Frank Cania, president of Driven HR, it is no longer acceptable to simply talk about the problem. Businesses must take action to end sexual harassment, he explained speaking at a recent NationaLease meeting, and that requires a commitment from everyone in the organization.
Cania emphasized that employees need to know what to expect from company leaders when it comes to this issue. Leaders have to set an example with their behaviors and actions and must clearly communicate policies, core values and accountability and consequences when it comes to sexual harassment.
Extensive training on the topic should be mandatory for all employees, spelling out rules and expectations, a review of procedures and information on how to file complaints.
The time to have a plan to deal with sexual harassment is before there is an issue. Once you have a written plan, make sure that all complaints are taken seriously, Cania said. Identify the person who will investigate complaints involving individuals at various levels of your organization: from employees to supervisors to management to senior leadership. And you might want to identify and train your investigator sooner rather than later.
It is a good idea, according to Cania, to prepare for a “worst case” scenario involving senior leadership. Make sure to include your legal, HR, IT and public relations staff in the planning and even get buy-in from your board of directors. Once you have a plan in place, you need to review it and update it regularly.
If you think it is not important to have a clear policy on sexual harassment, think again. Sexual harassment is a form of illegal discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the laws of many states. But more than that, Cania said, sexual harassment is bad for the organization and its employees, not to mention the fact that it is often devastating for the individuals involved.