Sexual harassment is an unfortunate reality in the modern American business world. Every year, thousands of employees across all industries experience sexual harassment at work. Unfortunately, these employees often feel trapped by their circumstances. Some may believe they have no way to fight back against this mistreatment without losing their jobs, and others are intimidated by the thought of taking legal action against their harassers.
Employers in the US have a legal duty to ensure their employees can work free from sexual harassment. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency tasked with creating and enforcing equitable workplace regulations, including those pertaining to sexual harassment. Therefore, employers should not only know how to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces, but employees should also know how to prevent sexual harassment from manifesting in their workplaces.
Creating an Anti-Harassment Company Culture
Employers should do everything they can to foster inclusive and supportive work environments. Company culture can boost employee productivity, eliminate the risk of litigation arising internally, and provide every employee with peace of mind. Employers create positive company cultures by upholding appropriate values and enforcing company policies that align with and strengthen these values.
An employer must comply with EEOC regulations pertaining to sexual harassment, such as developing and enforcing anti-harassment policies in their workplaces and demonstrate personal alignment with these values. For example, it would be hypocritical for an employer to boast a robust anti-sexual harassment policy for their employees and then engage in sexually charged humor or tasteless comments about their subordinates’ sexual characteristics or preferences.
In addition, company leaders must demonstrate adherence to positive values to foster a cohesive and supportive company culture.
Developing Strong Internal Conflict Resolution Policies
When an employee experiences sexual harassment at work, they should be reassured of a strong internal conflict resolution system and feel like they have support when they need it. Many sexual harassment incidents revolve around miscommunication or a simple lack of tact. While other sexual harassment incidents can pertain to more severe issues, these minor issues should be resolved internally. Employees should have a clear and accessible system for airing their concerns about sexual harassment at work.
A properly constructed internal conflict resolution policy could prevent a serious sexual harassment case by allowing an employee to promptly address the issue with support from their employer. In addition, it’s possible that this type of system could clarify a miscommunication and eliminate the chance of animosity manifesting between employees. Finally, this kind of system can also help employees clearly understand workplace expectations and appropriate conduct.
Making Expectations Clear
While employers have a legal duty to their employees to prevent sexual harassment from occurring in the workplace, employees can also be proactive in preventing sexual harassment from occurring. For example, if an employee overhears another employee making unacceptable sexual comments or jokes, that employee should explain that those remarks are not acceptable in the workplace.
When employees at all levels of an organization actively work toward creating a company culture that is inclusive and supportive, the chance of sexual harassment occurring diminishes dramatically. It is important to remember that sexual harassment is never the victim’s fault. An aggressor cannot claim that a victim of sexual harassment brought the behavior upon themselves.
FAQs About Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
The team at the Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams has years of experience representing clients in sexual harassment cases. Below are some of the most common questions our team fields from employers and employees regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.
What Counts as Sexual Harassment?
The term “sexual harassment” broadly applies to any negative behavior directed at an employee based on the employee’s sex or sexual orientation. Sexual comments, jokes, crude remarks, requests for sexual favors, or demeaning sexual terms can all constitute sexual harassment.
How Do You Prove Sexual Harassment Occurred?
Unfortunately for victims, it is often challenging to prove that sexual harassment has occurred. Physical evidence like emails, voicemails, text messages, and even security camera footage may be instrumental in proving that sexual harassment happened at work. Witness testimony from coworkers who saw harassment occur can also help a victim substantiate a sexual harassment claim.
What Is the Best Way to Resolve Sexual Harassment?
The best way to resolve sexual harassment is in a manner that makes it clear the behavior in question is unacceptable and prevents it from happening again. Unfortunately, this is not possible for every employee who experiences sexual harassment. When internal conflict resolution channels fail, or a supervisor fails to appropriately address sexual harassment at work, the victim should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Who Is Liable for Sexual Harassment?
The individual who engages in sexual harassment is liable for their actions and any damages their actions cause. However, it is also possible for an employer to absorb liability for sexual harassment if they failed to develop or enforce effective anti-sexual harassment policies or if they disregarded an employee’s claims of sexual harassment.
Can an Employee Claim Compensation for Sexual Harassment?
When sexual harassment prevents an employee from performing their job duties, creates a hostile work environment, or drives an employee to leave their job, the employee could have grounds for a civil claim against their harasser. Some sexual harassment claims generate compensation for lost income, lost benefits, and emotional distress.
If you or a loved one has experienced sexual harassment at work, it’s natural to have lots of questions about what to do about the situation. Unfortunately, many employees who suffer sexual harassment feel lost and isolated, especially when their employers are unsupportive or, worse, involved in the harassment directly. The Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams has years of experience helping clients navigate complex sexual harassment cases, and we understand the distress and uncertainty these incidents cause for victims.
If you are unsure how to address your recent experiences with sexual harassment at work, we can help. Contact us today for more information about your options for legal recourse after experiencing sexual harassment at work.