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Sexual harassment training: how to stay protected

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John Sherman
2018-11-07

Unfortunately, current statistics about sexual harassment in the workplace tell a horrifying story. Although public education and awareness help to some degree, this is a continuing problem that’s going to require a lot of involvement to reduce or hopefully, stop it. Not only do business owners play a significant role in protecting employees, but also their leadership team consisting of CEOs, CFOs, HR directors, compliance managers, L&D managers, and anyone else in a position of authority.

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Types of sexual harassment

  • Sharing nude or pornographic photos or videos
  • Making comments or jokes pertaining to sex
  • Asking sexual questions
  • Requesting sexual favors in exchange for some type of reward
  • Sharing or displaying statues, cartoons, icons, and dolls of a sexual nature
  • Writing memos, letters, text messages, or emails that include sexual innuendos
  • Making inappropriate sexual gestures
  • Touching someone sexually in any fashion
  • Making derogatory or insulting comments about or toward another employee of sexual nature
  • Asking someone about their sex life
  • Making offensive remarks about a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Posting sexual posters
  • Invading a person’s space in a sexual manner
  • Making sexual comments about a person’s clothing, appearance, or body parts

The following shows the difference between a hostile work environment sexual harassment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.

  • Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment – Anyone can commit this type of harassment, regardless of title or job responsibility. In fact, it can involve people outside of your organization, including clients, suppliers, vendors, couriers, members of the cleaning crew, repair people, etc. For this, there’s no offer of employee benefits in exchange for a sexual favor.
  • Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment – In this case, usually someone of authority makes unwanted, unwelcomed, or repeated advances in exchange for offering some type of employee benefit. Some examples include job promotion, bonus or raise, work-related opportunities, travel options, larger or better office, avoiding termination, and so on.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, sexual harassment entails virtually any kind of unwanted or unwelcome advances of a sexual nature. It also defines sexual harassment as any comment that would prevent an employee from doing his or her job due to feelings of being threatened or intimated.

Although both genders end up on the receiving end of sexual harassment, this problem affects more women than men, especially those between the ages of 25 and 35. Not only are men and women the recipients of sexual harassment but also the perpetrators. Also, harassment occurs between two people of the same and opposite gender.

For a better understanding of what sexual harassment looks like in the workplace, consider the three examples below.

Nude or pornographic photos

A male worker pulls out nude, partially nude, or pornographic photos to show to other employees while standing within feet from a female worker’s desk. The woman can see the images and hear the conversation about them. As someone disinterested, that act, whether intentional or not, is sexual harassment.

Joking around

A male or female employee tells a dirty joke within earshot of another worker who finds it offensive. Again, that situation depicts sexual harassment.

Touchy feely

An employee who is a natural toucher or hugger walks up to a worker and puts his or her arms around the individual. While that’s fine with family or close friends, an employee who goes to different people in the workplace touching them, making them feel uncomfortable is sexual harassment. Although the harasser meant no ill will, he still did something wrong.

Alarming statistics

As you review the current statistics on workplace sexual harassment, you’ll quickly realize if you don’t already have an action plan in place, you need to implement one immediately. For this, it’s critical you and your entire leadership team sit down to learn what constitutes sexual harassment.

Also, this is the perfect opportunity to organize training, so the company executives, managers, and staff learn how to spot a problem, who to report it to, how to prevent it, the way to react, and more. Thanks to one of the best Learning Management Systems, you can find hundreds upon hundreds of topics all relating to this topic.

  • In the workplace, a staggering 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men have experienced some kind of sexual harassment
  • There’s a 60 percent chance of experiencing sexual harassment at work
  • When asked, 25 percent of the workforce admitted to experiencing sexual harassment
  • Of women harassed, 30 percent said the harasser was a male co-worker while 25 percent was a male in a position of authority
  • Of targeted people, only 38 percent took any action

Your company liability

You and your entire leadership team carry most of the burden in identifying and preventing workplace sexual harassment. It’s vital you do everything humanly possible to protect the people who work for your organization. Start by developing a strict sexual harassment policy. Brainstorm with your executives and managers to include moral and legal requirements. As part of your new policy, make sure to cover prevention, reporting, investigation, and disciplinary action.

Include in your company’s sexual harassment policy what happens if someone fails to report an incident or a person in authority doesn’t handle it correctly. Because you’re liable, either scenario puts your company at risk for consequences. Especially if the same individual harasses another employee following the first case, things could turn ugly fast.

With the company policy in place, offer your entire organization training. Whether you have your staff complete online courses in a group setting or on an individual basis, everyone has the same information. Knowledge is what gives people the power needed to act appropriately when facing a situation of sexual harassment.

You should then have your leaders pass out some kind of booklet or pamphlet to their teams as a reference tool. Along with that, include policy material in the orientation package for any new hires. Even post the information in specific areas of the company, including the lunch room and in every manager’s office. Sexual harassment is a major deal, and you need to treat it as such.

In addition to the policy, you need to confront the person accused of committing sexual harassment. Because every situation is different, and on rare occasions, the victim isn’t telling the truth, talk to the person behind closed doors with his or her manager present.

Sexual Harassment fallout

Psychological side effects

  • Decreased self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Feelings of insecurity and loss of power
  • A sense of guilt, shame, and self-blame
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Isolation
  • Anger, frustration, fear, and irritability

Physical side effects

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Headaches
  • Panic attacks
  • Lethargy
  • Phobias
  • Skin rash
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Without handling the situation and providing workers with resources for overcoming these issues, they begin to lose interest in the company and their jobs. Some may begin to show up late to work, struggle as a team member, and experience a significant decline in work performance, forcing the manager to demote or terminate.

Proper documentation

When going through online training for sexual harassment, you’ll learn all sorts of things, including the correct information to document. For example, you or a manager needs to write down what happened and include as many details as possible. If preferred, you can have the harassed individual prepare a written statement. Include the harasser’s and any witness’s names, as well as the date, time, and place of the incident.

With the documentation, it’s essential to gather information as to how the harassed employee felt afterward and ways the situation affected his or her job. These details will help you understand any fallout of what happened, best deal with the harasser, and protect the innocent party.

For instance, if the harassed individual moves to another department or takes a job with a different company, you want a paper trail as to why the employee suddenly started struggling at work. If the severity of the sexual harassment arises to the level that requires the involvement of law enforcement, a full written report will paint a complete picture of what occurred.

Ongoing support

Even if you terminate the sexual harasser, the other party may need some time to deal with what happened. Make sure you offer support or professional counseling as needed. You want your employee to fully recover and continue being a valued member of your organization. Because sexual harassment is a problem most companies deal with at some point, there are tremendous resources available.

Excellent training

For the training portion, Go1 has an incredible library of podcasts, videos, and articles specific to sexual harassment in the workplace. You, your executives, managers, and staff can access the site and complete as much training as wanted for a nominal price. Contact us to speak with a representative, so we can help you select the right courses for your business.

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