Overly-Friendly or Sexual Harassment…Where Do You Draw the Line?
With the daily news of high profile cases of sexual harassment since Harvey Weinstein was accused last fall along with many others, clients have asked – how do you determine if someone is over-friendly verses harassment? The line between flirtation and harassment is a very fine, often, blurred one.
There is no disputing that a person’s individual and workplace culture plays a large part in this equation. Understanding what is happening (or not happening) in your organization, is most imperative for executives to take the lead on. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a clear definition of what is and is not harassment. So perhaps the question should be, what proactive things can I do to tackle this ever growing issue?
- Know the facts. Review the EEOC definition and educated yourself.
- Know the types of harassment. Sexual, verbal, gender, etc. and how they can play out in your culture.
- Have an inclusive work culture that is diverse in ethnicity, social background, and gender.
- Review and update policies that relate to harassment of all kinds.
- Develop internal communication that outlines standards, a process for reporting abuse, and clear consequences for violating the policy.
- Participate in regular scheduled trainings.
- Create a supportive work culture where employee’s feel empowered and valued.
- Support HR when a concern arises.
- Don’t wait for a formal complaint. If you see or hear about it, ACT.
- Respond quickly to all allegations.
Be The Solution
While there are no guarantees a company policy or training will be the perfect solution, employers can take proactive steps to address harassment and create solutions that ensure a safe and comfortable work environment for all.
For the skeptics, yes, false accusations have been made and genuine misunderstandings, easily rectified. But don’t let that lessen the seriousness of a complaint. Harassment of all kinds now have a voice and that has given people the courage to speak up, when they may have been too scared to before.
Given how little agreement exists about a clear definition of sexual harassment, employers seeking to create a comfortable work environment may need to be more explicit about the boundaries of acceptable behavior. Consider CorpStrat to help you through that next situation and in developing policies or trainings. Our HR on Demand packages can provide reliable HR support and create solutions. We are here to help.