As an employer, it’s important that you understand the laws that you must meet to keep your workplace safe and comfortable for your employees. One of the most important issues to address is sexual harassment. You should have solid employee training and a handbook with information on what happens if it occurs in your workplace. You should also take immediate action to protect your business if claims of harassment are made.
Sexual harassment is more than you may think
Sexual harassment is an issue in many workplaces, but people don’t always recognize it for what it is. Sometimes, something as simple as looking at a photograph can be harassing, even if it’s not intentionally shared with others.
For example, if a manager has a screensaver set to show a nude woman or one has sent a sexually explicit email to a colleague, then there could be trouble. In fact, it doesn’t matter if the employee is doing it on their own or sharing with others. The content is what creates the harassing situation.
Understand the definition of sexual harassment
Legally, in a workplace, sexual harassment is any kind of nonverbal, visual, verbal or physical conduct that isn’t welcome and that is sexual in nature. This may include if you look over at a coworker’s desk and they have naked images of people on their desk or if they send a “joke” email with illicit content.
It’s always easier to recognize sexual harassment when it include inappropriate actions like physically touching someone or speaking to them in a sexual manner, but many cases of harassment happen because one person has made others uncomfortable with their actions, even if unintentional.
Sexual harassment may include actions such as:
- Spreading rumors about someone’s personal life
- Looking at sexual images, even if they’re not intentionally shared
- Asking about someone’s sexual history
- Overhearing inappropriate comments
- Making sexual jokes
If there is a worker who has been made to feel uncomfortable, it’s their right to speak up and ask that these behaviors stop. You should speak with your colleagues or employees and ask them not to continue. If they do, it’s your responsibility to put an end to the problem by changing the problematic employees’ shifts or by firing them. Your attorney can help you understand what you can or cannot do, so that you’re not accused of allowing these behaviors to continue or encouraging harassment in the workplace.