Managers and supervisors are the front line when it comes to managing employee performance and needs from work. First, and most importantly, you do not want a workplace culture that allows any form of harassment to occur. Out of your commitment to your employees and your company, harassment, in any form, is never to be tolerated.
In harassment, as well as in other law suit-engaging topics, as an employer, demonstrating that you took appropriate steps is crucial. In fact, demonstrating that you took immediate action and that the consequences for the perpetrator were severe, is also critical. And, the front line leader is usually the person initiating and following through on those steps, so they have to feel confident about what they are doing. Any form of harassment can create a hostile work environment including sexual harassment and how it is addressed. The court's definition of what constitutes a hostile work environment has recently expanded to coworkers who are caught up in the situation, too.
As you think about sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in your work place, keep these facts in mind.
- The employee harassing another employee can be an individual of the same sex. Sexual harassment does not imply that the perpetrator is of the opposite sex.
- The harasser can be the employee's supervisor, manager, customer, coworker, supplier, peer, or vendor. Any individual who is connected to the employee's work environment, can be accused of sexual harassment.
- The victim of sexual harassment is not just the employee who is the target of the harassment. Other employees who observe or learn about the sexual harassment can also be the victims and institute charges. Anyone who is affected by the conduct can potentially complain of sexual harassment. As an example, if a supervisor is engaged in a sexual relationship with a reporting staff member, other staff can claim harassment if they believe the supervisor treated his or her lover differently than they were treated.
- In the organization's sexual harassment policy, advise the potential victims that, if they experience harassment, they should tell the perpetrator to stop, that the advances or other unwanted behaviors are unwelcome.
- Sexual harassment can occur even when the complainant cannot demonstrate any adverse affect on his or her employment including transfers, discharge, salary decreases, and so on.
- When an individual experiences sexual harassment, they should use the complaint system and recommended procedures as spelled out in the sexual harassment policy of their employer. The investigation should be conducted as spelled out in the handbook.
- The employer has the responsibility to take each complaint of sexual harassment seriously and investigate. The investigation should follow these steps listed in How to Address Sexual Harassment Charges.
- Following the investigation of the harassment complaint, no retaliation is permitted, regardless of the outcome of the investigation. The employer must, in no way, treat the employee who filed the complaint differently than other employees are treated nor change his or her prior-to-the-complaint treatment. If it is determined that the employee lied, disciplinary action is necessary, however.