Do I WANT a Sexual Harassment Policy?

It isn’t a legal requirement, but it doesn’t make it any less of an excellent idea.

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Q: I own a graphical design firm with six employees, most of whom have already been with me for awhile. Do I want a formal sexual harassment policy?

A: Although, under federal law, you aren’t legally required to have one, you should have one. It doesn’t matter how large or small your company, you should take prudent steps to avoid sexual harassment. One of the better ways to get this done is with an anti-harassment policy. Here are a few of the key questions connected with such an insurance plan.

What’s sexual harassment? There are two types of sexual harassment. The foremost is "quid pro quo." In its most elementary form, this kind of sexual harassment involves an employer asking a worker or employment applicant for a sexual favor in substitution for employment or some job benefit.

The next category is "hostile work place." As opposed to "quid pro quo," this sort of claim is more challenging to define, yet occurs more often. Many people might not even recognize that they have already been a victim of the type of harassment, and even that they may have already been a harasser. Typically, a hostile work place claim involves a supervisor, co-worker or customer making unwelcome sexual comments or remarks, or suggestively touching or acting in a sexually inappropriate way toward a worker.

What ought to be contained in an anti-harassment policy? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Guidelines suggest the next important elements be included:

  • Clear explanation of prohibited conduct.
  • Assurance that employees who make complaints or take part in a study of a complaint will be protected against retaliation.
  • Clear description of complaint process.
  • Assurance that the employer will protect the confidentiality of complaints to the extent possible.
  • Complaint process that delivers prompt, thorough and impartial investigation.
  • Assurance that the employer will need immediate and appropriate corrective action when a study determines that harassment has occurred.

How does an anti-harassment policy help? One of the better ways an employer can prevent claims of sexual harassment is to teach everyone face to face, and among the easiest methods to educate everyone is with an anti-harassment policy. You need to take into account, though, that you ought to not simply announce an insurance plan. The best and frequently simplest way to properly keep yourself well-informed and all employees is through an exercise program regarding the policy.

As the employer, you should be informed of regulations as well as your obligations, both which may change because of new legislation and court decisions. For supervisors, they routinely have the majority of connection with the employees, and their behavior you could end up liability for the employer. Thus, they have to be informed in regards to what could possibly be considered inappropriate behavior and ought to be trained to take care of potential complaints. Regarding employees, they, too, ought to be informed in regards to what could possibly be considered inappropriate behavior and what the potential corrective measures against such behavior include. They also needs to be informed of their to raise the problem of sexual harassment, and how exactly to raise it.

Once you have properly trained everyone, continue with the policy. This implies developing appropriate sanctions, promptly investigating all allegations of harassment and taking the correct corrective measures in response to any investigations.

In sum, if you would like to safeguard yourself as an employer, inform you to your employees that you strongly disapprove of any type of harassment, including sexual harassment. The simplest way to do that is by implementing an insurance plan against harassment, educating the task force regarding the policy and enforcing it.

Note: The info in this column is supplied by the writer, not Entrepreneur.com. All email address details are general in nature, not legal services rather than warranted or guaranteed. Readers are cautioned never to rely on these details. Because laws change as time passes and in various jurisdictions, it really is imperative that you consult a lawyer in your town regarding legal matters and an accountant regarding tax matters.

Larry Rosenfeld is co-chair of the national labor and employment practice of regulations firm Greenberg Traurig LLP. A frequent writer and lecturer on employment law topics, Rosenfeld has experience in the regions of federal laws regarding employment issues, EEOC, ADA, termination matters, employment liability and the Fair Labor Standards Act.