The #MeToo movement highlighted sexual harassment in the workplace. Harassment is costly on many levels. Just one harassment claim can have a huge ripple effect on a company. The impact on an organization’s reputation, morale, retention and engagement, and turnover cannot be understated. Of course, there is also the potential legal liability for unlawful conduct.
To mitigate these risks, companies should follow best practices for reporting and handling of such claims.
Here are some key strategies to consider:
Develop and Update Policies
Review and revise your company's policies on harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Ensure they are comprehensive, up to date, and compliant with applicable laws. Policies should be updated at least once a year, especially if work models have changed. Regularly update and reinforce training to ensure employees understand their rights and responsibilities.
Ensure Policy Awareness
According to a recent study, 60 percent of employees do not read their employee handbook. Therefore, it is important to communicate firm policies clearly to all employees and provide regular training on their contents. Ensuring that all employees understand the expectations of the company is key. One suggestion is to have employees sign off that they read the employee handbook.
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, only 10 percent of victims of harassment report the incident to HR and/or a company leader. To foster a workplace where employees will report incidents of harassment promptly, establish multiple reporting channels, such as anonymous hotlines or trusted HR representatives, and ensure employees are aware of these options. Invest in anti-harassment training so that employees understand the internal and external reporting procedures, as well as their rights and responsibilities. Having zero reports of sexual harassment does not always mean harassment is not occurring; it could be an indication people are afraid to come forward or they may not know to whom to report the issue.