Preventing & Responding to Sexual Harassment in your Workplace: 4 Vital Tips

The old HR rules for preventing and confronting sexual harassment charges have changed. If you are still relying on 20-year-old prevention, training and complaint policies, you could be in a world of trouble. Is your organization next in line for a bombshell complaint — or even a #MeToo hashtag complaint?
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Leaders & Managers

Preventing & responding to sexual harassment in your workplace: 4 vital tips

The flood of sexual harassment allegations from Hollywood to Washington has given people new confidence to publicly denounce sexual harassment and other misconduct by powerful leaders—not just in Hollywood but in workplaces across the country. The movement spawned a Twitter hashtag, #MeToo, that more than 1.7 million people have used in 85 countries to speak out and name their harassers.

Over the past five years, 5.3% of CEOs globally have been forcibly removed due to ethical lapses, including harassment, according to a PricewaterhouseCooopers study. In the United States, that's a 102% increase from the previous five years.

Last year alone, harassment cost U.S. companies more than $160 million in EEOC settlements — an all-time high. And that was before the #MeToo revolution. (Fact: The EEOC saw a fourfold increase in visitors to the sexual harassment section of its website after the Harvey Weinstein news came out!)

Today, employees are feeling much freer to come forward, sometimes with decades-old accusations. You may have a sexual harasser on your payroll — possibly a serial one. And the first complaint will open the floodgates to a PR, social media and legal disaster. Are you ready? Discover the changes you need to make TODAY to stay in compliance and out of the headlines!

Now's the time for HR to ask: Is your organization vulnerable to a bombshell complaint? What's the status of your anti-harassment training—are you just going through the motions? How about your complaint procedures and response planning?

Experts say the #MeToo movement will bring more harassment victims out of the shadows. While the EEOC receives about 30,000 harassment complaints each year, it estimates that only "6% to 13% of individuals who experience harassment file a formal complaint."

How should you respond? Here are four tips:

1. Rethink your training. The main reason most harassment training fails is that both staff and managers see it as a corporate check-the-box exercise aimed at limiting liability. Make clear—in your training, communications and modeling by leaders—that yours is a culture of equality and hands-off respect.

Tip: Swap your online training video for face-to-face role playing that truly explains what kind of behavior is tolerated.

Our expert attorney will walk you through today's new legal risks — in plain English, not legalese. Discover the new best practices for preventing, investigating and remedying sexual harassment in the workplace.

Most important, learn how to develop a program that will not only meet compliance requirements, but also change employees' behavior. Behavior change is essential — and your boring check-the-box training and slow investigation processes aren't going to cut it anymore. Get answers to YOUR questions about harassment training and eliminating the risks.

2. Provide multiple avenues to report harassment. Many companies fall down when it comes to giving employees several different ways to voice complaints. (Examples: Notify HR, contact a designated senior exec or call a third-party hotline.)

Remember, an employee who is being harassed by her boss is unlikely to file a complaint if your policy requires people to talk to their supervisor.

3. Don't pull punches with a CEO or top exec. Explain the complaint, but also discuss your exec's actions in light of protecting the organization from an expensive lawsuit. Courts will likely hold your top brass to a higher standard.

If you know what's going on and fail to stop it, you're opening the organization—and possibly yourself—to corporate (and even personal) liability.

4. Enlist the help of outside investigators and counsel. They will be able to better handle the investigation, explain the legal risks and give you guidance on how to proceed.

In this timely new webinar, you'll discover:
  • What's considered unlawful "harassment" in today's workplace. (Types of harassment exist today that nobody dreamed of when the Supreme Court first defined sexual harassment and created an employer defense.)
  • How to craft a lawsuit-proof anti-harassment and discrimination program … what to say, how to say it and when
  • A checklist for self-auditing your current Anniken Davenportpolicies and complaint process so you can spot problems and fix them
  • How to draft a new policy for responding to complaints against key employees
  • Why your harassment training needs to be up close and personal. (Find out how to create companywide sessions so that everyone from the janitor to CEO takes it seriously!)
  • Steps to revamp your complaint process so it fosters an environment where victims feel supported, free of shame … and free from shaming
  • What to do as an HR professional if a complaint involves a high-level executive or other key person — who do you call and how fast do you act?
  • And much, much more!
Register now!
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