Sexual harassment is no longer a confusing, esoteric term that people don’t understand. It has become a commonplace concept in modern society. Everyone that you hire probably already knows that sexual harassment in the workplace violates their rights as a worker or could get them fired if they engage in it.
Given that most people already know that sexual harassment is not appropriate on the job, you might think that your company doesn’t need to remind every new hire about this basic concept. Including a written sexual harassment policy in your company handbook or employment contract might at first seem like overkill. However, your internal policy and handbook is only partly designed to educate employees: It also protects your company.
Your policy establishes worker rights and reporting options
A written policy on sexual harassment serves as a reminder to all workers that your company will take a zero-tolerance approach to credible allegations of harassment. In addition to making it clear your company will not ignore such issues, your harassment policy should also give victims a specific way to report their experiences.
Solid sexual harassment reporting policies include both a standard procedure that involves management or human resources and an alternate system in case someone’s direct superior or a member of Human Resources is the one harassing the worker.
The policy should also make it clear how your company will conduct an investigation and the temporary protections available for a worker. Common solutions include placing someone under investigation on administrative leave or allowing someone who files a complaint the right to temporarily transfer to a different department or position. You might even just have a policy of changing who they report to so they don’t have to fear speaking up.
The more thorough your company’s sexual harassment policy, the easier it will be for you to push back against claims that your company didn’t protect a worker from harassment on the job.