The Very Real Costs of Sexual Harassment

It’s not something that only happens in other industries. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely prevalent in yours. Mild or severe, sexual harassment in the workplace happens, and companies are paying the price. In 2015, $46 million was paid to victims in the nearly 7,000 lawsuits that were filed, according to the EEOC.

In August and September of this year alone, the nation has seen hotels and restaurants settle lawsuits like the $1.4 million paid to a victim in Ohio, $200K in Maryland, and $81K in North Carolina, just to name a few.

According to AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research,) the industries with high levels of sexual harassment include business, finance, and hospitality.

Your company may not have any recent complaints about sexual harassment. But trusting in silence is a risk. The best way to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace is to prevent it before it happens. And when and if it does happen, correct it promptly.

Prevent and Correct
This should be your company’s mantra when it comes to sexual harassment. Managers, that’s you! Managers are needed to identify it when it happens, investigate the heck out of it, and lay the hammer down when taking corrective measures and enforcing company policy.

  • Schedule a training refresher for managers. Federal law advises periodic training, but some states require it. In California, managers are required to complete two hours of sexual harassment training every two years. Here’s a quick link to state-by-state training requirements.
  • Distribute a company-wide e-mail and a printed handout that explains the company’s policy on sexual harassment. Make it an annual event along with other yearly to-do’s.
  • As an employer, convey the message that it’s important that everyone is respected and that the company is there to offer solutions if a violation occurs.

Flesh Out Company Policy- The EEOC offers free outreach assistance.
It’s not enough to just have a policy – it needs to be communicated and issues need to be addressed.

  • Does your company have a policy written out and easily accessible by staff?
  • Is it clear that the company is committed to preventing sexual harassment?
  • Does the policy state what the penalties will be for violations?
  • Make sure the policy identifies who employees should report concerns to.

In the end, we all want our colleagues to feel safe and respected, and we want our businesses to flourish. Making sexual harassment prevention a priority can make you a champion of both.