Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Guest Post: Implementing Real Change in a Company’s Anti-Harassment Culture

Kate is a political writer from Pennsylvania. Her favorite topics are feminist-focused, but she writes on a wide variety of social and cultural issues. If you enjoy her work, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

The ousting of dozens of sexual predators, including Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and others marked the end of 2017. The #MeToo movement began last October as a hashtag that was meant to inspire women across the globe to speak out against their attackers and remember that they are not alone.
The movement has been largely successful, with countless women coming forward with accusations of sexual harassment and assault. The movement has also given way for many large businesses and companies to start thinking about their sexual harassment policies.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, every company should be making it a goal to implement better anti-harassment policies if they have not already. But in case you’re not sure where to start, here are some guiding tips for employers or those looking to get their employer on board.
Know Your Responsibilities
Knowing your responsibilities as an employer is a crucial step in implementing policy. Keeping sexual harassment far away from the workplace is the responsibility of the employer — you will be held responsible if a situation arises.
Since addressing sexual harassment lies on the shoulders of executives and the leadership of a company, leaders need to be largely involved in drafting policies. Executives should partner with human resource teams to make sure the policies work and are upheld. They can also send reminders of expectations to their employees to make sure the policies are followed in practice.
Remember Employee Responsibilities
While the executives and leadership can help implement and put together policies, it is largely the employees that must be committed to these plans day to day. Employees should always know their rights and be aware of their company’s policies.
While all employees most likely receive a copy of their company’s policies, it’s crucial that they actually read the information and commit it to memory. All new hires should be required to review — and acknowledge they’ve reviewed — the policies.
But employees must also be encouraged to revisit the document. When’s the last time you read your company’s handbook? Go take a look back through it and see if there are any places the anti-harassment policy could be clearer or more actionable.
Adopt a Policy
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends adopting a solid anti-harassment policy. Regarding what to include in the policy, they suggest a clear and direct explanation of prohibited conduct, including examples. The policy should assure that the employees who make complaints will have protection against any form of retaliation. The commission also advises outlining a complaint process that provides employees with different ways to file a complaint.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission goes on to say the policy should include assurance that any complaint is confidential. They say the complaint process needs to be both prompt and thorough. The employer is encouraged to take immediate corrective action against the accused or others involved.
In addition to what the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explained, it’s critical to have a section in the policy that explains that the company is not legally allowed to discriminate against and will not tolerate harassment against anyone based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability or any other legally protected status.
Put the Policy Into Practice
While paper copies, posters and signatures of acknowledgment are excellent first steps to implementing better anti-harassment workplace policies, they are just the first steps. The next step is putting these rules into practice.
The practice of these policies comes from a strong commitment to respond to accusations and concerns quickly, taking every matter seriously and then conducting a formal investigation and taking the next steps, such as implementing consequences when the evidence shows a sexual harassment situation occurred.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommends an employer periodically train every one of their employees on anti-harassment policy. While sexual harassment training is not required in the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is encouraged. It is recommended that employers conduct periodic training that builds awareness on various types and different levels of harassment. This training also keeps employees aware that the company has procedures and explains how they’re handled.
Anti-Harassment Policies Should Be a Focus for Businesses
If 2017 has taught us anything, it is that businesses need to change the way they handle sexual harassment allegations. While it seems there is another accusation every day, harassment is not inevitable, and it is 100 percent preventable.
This needs to be something we actually listen to and care about in our everyday lives, not just another media movement where everyone says, “that happened” and then moves on. Employers need to step up and take the initiative to adopt better anti-harassment procedures, and go even further to train their employees to respect those procedures.

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