Sexual Harassment Policies and Procedures
You may be wondering what your organization can do to prevent sexual harassment. Now is a necessary time to review your policies and procedures in order to provide a healthy work environment, as well as helpful resources and clear expectations around sexual harassment.
Zero Tolerance Policy
If you don’t already have one, your organization needs a zero tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment, assault, battery, stalking and abuse. This policy should state that no volunteer, employee, contractor, student or other person associated with the organization may sexually harass, assault, batter or abuse any other volunteer, employee, contractor or student.
Provide employees and volunteers with mandatory conduct training from a professional that outlines the organization’s zero tolerance policy. Training must take place at the beginning of employment and continue on a regular schedule afterward. Every two years is suggested.
Have clear, easily accessible definitions and examples for unwelcomed behavior. Everyone should be educated on and reminded of the policies. They should also know the consequences of not following policies.
Improper Conduct Examples
The following are examples that include, but not limited to, possible situations of zero tolerance behavior outlined by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Sexual harassment is defined as being the unlawful act of harassing a person because of that person’s gender. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.
It is important to note that both the victim and harasser can be any gender, and that they can identify as the same gender. Unwanted sexual attention in any way from anybody is unlawful.
The harasser can be anyone, no matter the position in the organization.
Sexual assault is simply any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Without that explicit consent, it is assault and it is a crime.
The following is a partial list of conduct which, if unwelcome, could be considered sexual harassment depending on its severity and its pervasiveness:
- Threats or insinuations, either explicitly or implicitly, that an individual's refusal to submit to sexual advances or sexual conduct will adversely affect his or her employment, evaluation, wages, advancement, assigned duties, benefits or any other aspect of employment or career advancement
- Favoring any applicant or employee because that person has performed or shown a willingness to perform sexual favors for a manager
- Unwelcome sexual jokes, language, epithets, advances or propositions
- Written or oral abuse of a sexual nature, or use of sexually degrading or sexually vulgar words to describe an individual
- Display of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, posters or cartoons
- Unwelcome comments about an individual's body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies
- Asking questions about sexual conduct
- Unwelcome touching, leering, whistling, brushing against the body, or suggestive, insulting or obscene comments or gestures
- Assault or coerced sexual acts
Filing a Complaint
Any individual who believes they have been the subject of harassment should bring their complaint to the attention of their immediate leader. If uncomfortable sharing the situation/complaint with their leader, they should inform that leader’s leader of their complaint. If they are uncomfortable sharing the complaint with leadership, they should speak with a trustee. Clearly communicate that these designated individuals are available to everyone associated with the organization, so they know where to go if they need help.
A manager receiving a complaint must immediately notify a third party including legally trained professionals. Do not conduct your own investigation.
GuideOne prohibits retaliation against anyone who makes a complaint or participates in an investigation taken pursuant to this policy. Your organization should also outline and express its retaliation clause to all people. Anyone associated with the organization who feels they have been retaliated against for complaining about unlawful harassment, or for participating in an investigation conducted pursuant to this policy, should promptly report the behavior.
Besides the designated individuals such as managers and human resources, it’s important to have other resources readily available for people to receive help. Consult your legal counsel to determine the right resources for your organization. Here are some options from the EEOC.
- Harassment Fact Sheet
- Questions and Answers for Small Employers on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors
- Sexual Harassment Fact Sheet
- Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace
© 2021 The GuideOne Center for Risk Management, LLC. All rights reserved.This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.