Reading the Signs: Spotting and Eliminating Sexual Harassment in Your Workplace
(Estimated Reading Time 5 min.)
Filling knowledge gaps and building awareness in the workplace. It’s how DigitalChalk serves the small to mid-sized business segment. Today, we look at some of the risks posed by sexual harassment and at how you can take the necessary steps to address and eliminate abuse in your workplace. To do that, we’ve called on the expertise of one of our premier content providers, ej4. Founded in 2004, ej4 is an award-winning trailblazer in online video solutions for business training.
It’s likely that if you’ve checked the news in recent months, you’ve come across many high-profile stories of sexual harassment and abuse. Starting with the Harvey Weinstein scandal, a whole host of allegations surfaced from actors and actresses in Hollywood claiming abuse and harassment. Even more recently, over 150 girls and women accused Larry Nassar, former doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University women’s athletics, of sexual abuse. Nassar was just sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison (Source: NPR). Clearly, this is a pressing issue in our current cultural climate.
Sexual harassment and abuse can be tricky to discover in your workplace, as they often occur in private settings. However, DigitalChalk, with some assistance from one of our premier content partners, ej4, will help you see the signs and eliminate the problem.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
Legally speaking, sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature” (Source: EEOC). Because sexual harassment is very broadly defined, it is often difficult to spot the symptoms and put an end to them in a way that adheres to the law and company policy alike. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be aware of what is going on in your work environment. Remember, sexual harassment and abuse are never acceptable and you should make every effort to eradicate them.
We have provided examples of some high profile sexual abuse cases and some cases of harassment that happened more under the radar so that you can understand the damage that this pervasive issue causes to individual lives, businesses, and organizations.
The USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University Doctor: Larry Nassar, as of January 24th of this year, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of his patients. More than 150 girls and women accused Nassar. (Source: NPR).
Michigan State University President Resigns: After receiving pressure from the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal, Michigan State’s president, Lou Anna Simon, resigned from her post (Source: CNN).
Harvey Weinstein: In 2017, multiple allegations of Weinstein’s sexual abuse surfaced in the news. As of this week, Weinstein is facing another lawsuit for the sexual harassment of one of his assistants. (Source: ABC News).
The GEO Group: An Arizona-based operator of two correctional facilities will pay out $550,000 in a sexual harassment and retaliation suit. After several female employees complained of sexual assault from male employees, the EEOC alleges that the company “would discipline women, force them to quit, fire them, or place them in unsafe conditions in the prison” (Source: EEOC, Press Release, GEO Group to Pay $550,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit).
Bojangles’: In December, a North Carolina judge ruled that the popular southern fast food chain must pay out $15,000 to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation claim. A transgender employee was reported to have been subjected to a hostile work environment due to gender identity from the other employees. When that employee complained to the supervisors, management fired that employee (Source: EEOC, Press Release, Bojangles’ To Pay $15,000 To Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment and Retaliation Lawsuit).
Tips for Dealing with Sexual Harassment and Abuse in the Workplace
If you are made aware of sexual harassment, you are now involved with the situation and you must do something about it. You do not have the option to stay silent. Staying silent means that you are part of the problem. Failing to address sexual harassment decreases the safety of the workplace and increases the likelihood of employee loss and/or litigation. As a manager or a supervisor, you are responsible for maintaining the high standards of your workplace. But, addressing sexual harassment issues with sensitivity can seem a formidable task.
Industry training experts, ej4, recommend documenting a process for supervisors to follow in the event of alleged sexual harassment. In addition, strong adherence to the following guidelines helps ensure the privacy of the people involved and minimize risk of litigation and financial loss to the company.
- Any information you receive should be kept confidential. You must be as discreet as possible.
- Communicate to the offender that their behavior is unacceptable. You should do this as soon as you are made aware of the situation so that you can ensure that sort of behavior will not be tolerated.
- Review the investigation process and your retaliation policy with the employees who come to you with information.
- If the behavior does not stop, get Human Resources involved. Alert HR because they are trained specialists who know all of the proper procedures for dealing with a problem like this.
- Create a safe work environment. This is perhaps one of the most important things you can do as a supervisor. If employees feel safe coming to you, then you will be able to resolve the problem quicker.
We understand that sexual harassment and abuse are never easy to talk about or deal with. So let us help with some of the heavy lifting. Contact one of our sales representatives today to begin using ej4’s course series on anti-harassment in the workplace.
ej4’s courses are a great resource to use for online anti-harassment training, as well as training in business skills, workplace compliance, and software skills. In 2017, ej4 was the recipient of several eLearning awards including eLearning! Magazine Best of 2017, Training Industry Watchlist for Learning Portal/LMS, the Stevie Awards Gold Winners for Compliance, Safety, and Skills Training, as well as the 2017 Inc. 5000 award for fastest growing private companies.