A new day is dawning, folks! Unless you've been totally tuned out, you know that women (and some men) are standing up in droves to demand justice from their harassers and abusers.
As a woman and an advocate for equity, I'm beyond thrilled to see this overwhelming tide heading for corporate America.
As an HR practitioner and lawyer, I'm advising leaders to be very very careful.
I'm assuming you, dear reader, also think sexual harassment in the workplace is, you know, not good. We (a) don't want victims to suffer and (b) don't want the fear of litigation that arises once someone speaks out. So, how do you proactively manage your company culture so (a) and (b) just never happen? Here's a handy list of steps to take NOW (today! this week! soon!):
- Review and revise your policy.
Spoiler alert: your policy needs to be updated. I know this because, at my regular gig, the old policy basically says "here's the law on sexual harassment. Don't violate it." I recognized this from basically every other employer I've ever worked with, so I'm guessing you have the same old stuff in your handbook. Your policy shouldn't detail the law--it should detail the behavior that is unacceptable per your company's values. It's actually better to stay away from words like "illegal sexual harassment" and "hostile work environment" because those are legal conclusions--not clear standards for employee behavior.
Make your policy directly applicable to your company. Address the quirks of your business and use examples that have some up before. Always include strong wording about anti-retaliation policies.
- Make sure your employees have read your policy.
This is important. Figure out a way to verify that every employee has read and understands your new-and-improved policy. This can be a fancy signature acknowledgement through your HRIS, or it can be as simple as a required email reply.
- Hold a mandatory training for everyone.
Make everyone be in the same room--employees and managers and the C-suite. In the past, these groups were addressed separately, but it's important to let everyone see that everyone is being held to the same standards. Also, in today's more egalitarian, less hierarchical workplaces, harassment isn't always (or even usually) something that a direct supervisor perpetrates against a direct report. (Anyone can harass anyone--progress!)
- Repeat regularly.
All the steps (revise, disseminate, train). Upon hire, and at least semi-annually thereafter.
That's it! Just kidding. There's more, but that's a great place to start. If you need some guidance on revising your policy or delivering good training, feel free to contact me. You can hire me if that makes sense for you, or I can direct you to a good resource to DIY.
* I have to give credit for the "#not_here" hashtag to the lawyers who delivered a great training I attended recently. Thanks, Stoel Rives!