Blog: Sexual Harassment at Work: Navigating a Dangerous Path

By March 15, 2018 January 4th, 2019 Blog

If vs. when

This article is from Sterling’s Spring 2018 issue of its Risk & Business Magazine. Want a copy? Email jgiffels@sterlingagency.com. Please enjoy and share.

When it comes to sexual harassment claims at work, it is no longer a question of “if” and is quickly becoming a question of “when”. Not only can these claims make work difficult for the employees, but they also create a toxic work environment which can lead to decreased productivity and increased absenteeism. To make matters more complicated, there are myriad laws on the books about sexual harassment which also need to be followed. Unfortunately, the ins and outs of these laws are often lost on employers, leaving them in a precarious situation.

The circumstances under which sexual harassment can occur are varied, but the following should be kept in mind:

  • The victim can be either sex. It is not limited to the opposite sex.
  • The harasser isn’t always going to be a supervisor. It could be a vendor, a co-worker, a friend of an employee, or anyone else who visits the workplace.
  • Sexual harassment does not always bring with it economic consequences to the victim (such as not getting a raise or getting fired).
  • The conduct is unwelcome.

The employer’s responsibility

As an employer, what should you be doing to handle these types of situations? For owners, it is important to remember that all claims, valid or invalid, need to be treated the same and investigated to the fullest extent. Develop policies specifically designed to handle these situations and let your employees know where they can turn if they come up. It is essential to get this information down on paper somewhere to act as a playbook. Further, address these situations in training. Prevention is always better than dealing with the alternative.   Our Risk Path IQRM for Employment Practices evaluates your preparedness and compliance before a claim occurs.

What should victims do? Ultimately, they should inform the harasser initially that the advances or conduct is not welcome and needs to stop. They should also inform the employer, either through human resources or some other means, of what is going on. It is important to understand that victims often don’t come forward simply because they are embarrassed. That is precisely why it is so important to make it clear that these issues not only won’t be tolerate, but it is essential to report them if they do occur.

Tough but necessary conversations

Sexual harassment at work is a difficult situation to deal with for everyone involved. In a world that is becoming increasingly sensitive to these types of situations, gender biases, and discrimination, it can be frustrating for owners to navigate through their daily workload while also maintaining a safe work environment for everyone. The light at the end of the tunnel, however, is that with education and the promotion of a healthy awareness of these issues, they can be overcome.

How are your policies at work? Do you have any? Where can your employees turn if they have a problem like this? For a thorough review of your policies and to get started mitigating your risk in this area, contact Sterling Insurance Group today.