Guest post from Sharon L. Sellers, SHRM-SCP:

Sexual Harassment – Should My Company Be Doing Something?

News reports are popping up daily showing that yet another entertainer, politician, or journalist acted sexually inappropriately. People are reporting how their lives were drastically changed after they were sexually abused or harassed, and they didn’t feel they could tell anyone in their organizations for fear of reprisal.  

While the news and media are having a field day reporting all of the drama (at least those reporters who haven’t been named yet are having fun!), the fallout is expensive. Long prestigious careers have disintegrated. Companies have paid out millions of dollars in settlements.

What about your company? You don’t have employees whose whereabouts are watched by the paparazzi.

Should you be worried? Is there anything you should be doing?


Here are the top five things ALL Employers should keep in mind regarding Sexual Harassment Prevention:


  1.       Writing a policy is only the beginning

The Supreme Court and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have recommended that employers create a policy that prohibits sexual harassment. Some states even require it. But writing a policy and putting it on a shelf is just a waste of time. Your employees need to know about it. Instead of just sending them a copy through email, set up a time to have an in-person training or a webinar. Talk to them about the importance of the policy. Make sure employees understand what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the workplace. And clearly state what an employee should do if he or she experiences or witnesses what they perceive as sexual harassment. Who should they speak to? Then what will happen?

  1.       Just checking “harassment training” off your “to do” list isn’t enough

As an HR consultant who specializes in harassment prevention, I get calls frequently from employers who want me to come in and give an anti-harassment presentation. There are basically two types of employers who call me. One is the employer who has a list of what needs to be done and simply wants to check the box that one more thing is accomplished. This employer gives very little thought to the importance of the training. Often, senior management doesn’t even bother to show up. After all, they know all this stuff, right? The other type of employer is the one who understands just how important this type of training can be. This employer realizes that a workplace where people can interact with each other without undertones of discrimination, exclusion, and harassment is a place where employees can thrive and perform their best work. They make sure that senior management attends the training and – instead of making inappropriate comments at the back of the room – they sit UP FRONT. Or, if there is a webinar, they make sure their voice is heard. The message is loud and clear – – this is so important that everyone from every level of the organization should pay attention.

  1.       Creating a respectful workplace is an ongoing process

Workplace claims of harassment and discrimination – whether of a sexual nature or on the basis of age, race, disability, or other unlawful biases – are a symptom of a much bigger issue: Lack of Respect in the workplace. While writing policies and training are important steps in communicating the need to respect other persons, employers should understand that that the initiative isn’t finished. In fact, promoting a respectful workplace is NEVER done. First, management has to lead by example. Then, everyone should be empowered to constantly monitor that they are speaking to each other respectfully. When disrespect is displayed, the employer should help create guidelines of what should be done to get back on track.

  1.       Ignorance is NOT bliss

Some employers have actually told me that they don’t want to publicize their harassment policies or draw attention to the complaint procedures because they don’t want to stir things up. After all, if you don’t tell the employees about their rights and responsibilities, then you don’t have to worry about someone coming forward and ruining your day, right? Actually, that may be right. If the employer doesn’t train employees regarding their rights to complain in-house, the employees may not bother them at all – directly. They may just lookup online how to contact their local human affairs office or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and file a complaint with one of those agencies. Then the employer is faced not only with a discrimination complaint, but also with a potentially costly lawsuit. So, would you rather have an open door policy where you find out immediately if someone is acting inappropriately so you can stop the behavior OR would you rather be blindsided by a notice from the EEOC? Granted, the law does state that in order to be liable, the employer “knew or should have known” about the harassing behavior. BUT, if you take into account that courts usually consider any manager as an agent of the employer, how confident are you that NO ONE of that level was aware of the behavior? And of course, with sexual harassment being in the headlines daily, no employer should bank on employees not knowing that they have reporting rights.

  1.       Continually follow up and Monitor

What is the “pulse” of your workplace? Do you have a culture that encourages mutual respect? Your answer today may be “yes” but it is surprising how this dynamic can change. The workplace is truly a system where one component affects the other components. Think of a baby’s mobile above a crib. Take one little animal off of that mobile and the rest of the animals tilt to one side. The balance is gone. The same thing can happen in the workplace. A frustrating project, a demanding customer, or a new manager can appear and upset the balance. As employers, we need to keep our thumb on the pulse. To do this, we need to constantly monitor through pulse polls, surveys and other means of getting feedback from employees. Just as a change in heart rate or high blood pressure is a symptom that perhaps we need to make some adjustments to avoid heart problems, so too can feedback from employees show us that there may be some culture issues that we need to address to avoid future disrespect in the workplace.


So… How Can Teamphoria Help??

Technology can help create a safe medium for employees. No, email is not a safe medium any more, and no, your “open door” policy is not enough.

  1. Leverage an Open Communication Strategy (A truly open door policy): Teamphoria can act as a Transparent way to “blow the whistle” in a non email format and through a web based or mobile app.
  2. Recognize Positive Behaviors: Through Peer to Peer recognition and Communication Tools, Recognize and show appreciation to individuals for representing the positive behaviors that should exist within the organization. Keep the core values, mission and vision the focus of the business.
  3. Open Feedback: 360 feedback through ongoing monthly check ins, bi-annual, and annual reviews. Allow team members to give feedback at all levels. Through Teamphoria, team members can have a better self awareness!
  4. Team Pulse: Team member sentiment, morale, and happiness are important. See the smoke before the fire. Be aware if someone is unhappy with what is going on within their team or your business.

Sign up for Teamphoria today!

Sharon L. Sellers, SHRM-SCP, is the president of SLS Consulting, LLC. SLS provides human resources services and training to assist employers in providing a positive, respectful corporate culture. Sharon is actively involved in the Society of HR Management and was the 2017 Southeastern Representative to the Membership Advisory Council. Considered a subject matter expert regarding preventing harassment, Sharon has recently been interviewed for national print publications as well as National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and regional television newscasts. For more info on SLS, go or follow her on Twitter @sellersHR

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