Though one-in-three executives have reported changing their workplace behavior in light of the #MeToo movement, over one-third of employees still believe their workplace fosters sexual harassment. Change is happening, but there is still much work to be done.
The #MeToo movement has sparked media attention around sexual violence around the nation. You’ve likely heard of the many Hollywood allegations, from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey. However, these are just the most publicized incidents. Now, an increasing number of employees are stepping forward with claims of sexual harassment in the workplace. These allegations can have severe consequences for your organization and its more important than ever to make sure your small business is taking the right steps towards prevention.
Here are four tips for small business owners to implement anti-harassment policies and respond to claims.
Create a strong anti-harassment policy
Implementing a zero-tolerance policy will help to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place. If sexual harassment does transpire in your workplace, your plan will assist you in responding promptly and effectively, and may even protect you from litigation. It’s crucial to do your research; some state-specific rules designate the proper legal language that you need to include in your policies. Also, consider including a hotline for whistleblowers to use without fear of retaliation. If you are not sure what else your harassment policy should include, SHRM provides a free example.
Next, provide harassment training for all managers and employees within your organization. Policies and rules are worthless if everyone in the company does not obey them. Training should include a detailed overview of your sexual harassment policy, followed by an explanation of consequences for breaking it. Keep records of all employee’s signatures, acknowledging their understanding.
Foster a safe culture
As a business owner, it is up to you to create a work culture centered around diversity and inclusion where your employees and other stakeholders feel safe and respected. These beliefs should be deep-rooted into your organization’s mission and values and should act as a guide for you and all employees to follow. Not only will this help to prevent harassment claims, but it will also develop employees who are motivated to work more innovatively and stay longer with your company.
Prioritize the creation of a process for dealing with allegations
Take all harassment claims seriously. It’s essential that you already have a standard process in place for responding to allegations before they happen. Planning will allow you to investigate promptly and take immediate action. While investigating;
- Have employee submit a written complaint
- Collect any evidence from employee
- Interview claimant, alleged harasser, and witnesses
- Document all meetings and information
- Take prompt corrective action
- Prohibit retaliation
As a startup, it can be extremely stressful to deal with issues of harassment and discrimination, especially if you don’t have an HR person or department to deal with said issues. Hire Your HR Partner to help you create a sexual harassment policy, conduct employee training, and handle problems that arise. Take the HR pressure off yourself so you can focus on running your business.