By: Melanie Berkowitz, Esq.
When it comes to controlling sexual harassment in the workplace, small businesses with fewer than 15 employees -- businesses that are therefore not subject to Title VII -- shouldn’t get complacent.
Remember -- sexual harassment is not acceptable, whatever the size of the business, just as with any type of workplace discrimination.
“I advise all my clients to undergo sexual harassment prevention training as a best practice,” notes Garland. “The next hire could put them over Title VII or their state’s threshold and they need to be prepared.”
For a small business with limited resources, the following best practices are a good start to avoiding sexual harassment in the workplace:
- Training. It can’t be said enough -- make sure that all of your employees, from managers down to the newest hourly worker -- know what sexual harassment is and that it is not tolerated.
Regular training sessions are best, but at the least every business should have a carefully drafted policy that every employee and new hire must read and understand. Sample sexual harassment are all over the Internet; look at a few and adapt them to your business.
- Respond to complaints appropriately. Have a process in place by which employees can express their concerns confidentially, without having to involve the alleged harasser in the chain of reporting. Treat every concern seriously and don’t brush off rumors without giving them the attention they deserve.
In some cases, complaints can be resolved with a staff meeting to go over the rules of workplace etiquette. Other problems may require more formal investigation, assistance of outside counsel, and discipline.
- Avoid or manage harassment situations that could get out of hand. Of course, the best way to handle complaints about harassment in the workplace is to not have any because your work force knows how to behave. Be sure all employees are given guidelines on workplace ethics. Keep an eye out for actions that just brush the line between “okay” and “not okay” and put a stop to them before they escalate.
Find out more: Be Aware of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace