In todays office environment, the issue of sexual harassment can never be ignored. The possibility of it occurring in any work environment is taken a given. And when it does, it may always be a case of mistaken intentions due to a miscommunication. And on the other hand, it may be a true case of one employee harassing another. But in either case the implications for any business can be damaging. This is why it is important for every company to have a sexual harassment policy that really works.
Many are aware of the importance of having a policy on sexual harassment but very few take the time and effort to generate and implement one that works. What is important in doing this is to be clear about the objectives. Most important of these is to come up with a system for the early detection, investigation and resolution of any workplace sexual harassment. In creating and implementing this system, prevention of sexual harassment before it occurs should also be part of the objectives.
In creating the policy itself, it is best that a committee is formed representing various aspects of the company, such as the rank and file, managers and supervisors, and human resources. It is also important to include legal advisers, who could be a representative from the companys law firm or an employment attorney, who can best advise the committee on the legal aspects of the policy, especially regarding sexual harassment laws. By having a well-represented committee, acceptance and conformity to the policy will be better assured.
Here are some guidelines to come up with a sexual harassment policy that works:
1. The format of the policy varies from each company, but there are topics that are necessary in order for it to be effective in meeting the objectives of having one. A sexual harassment policy must begin with an introduction, policy statement or preamble. In this portion of the policy, the objectives can be clearly defined and stated. Any policy on sexual harassment must begin with the statement of the objectives as this defines all other parts of the policy. It may include other important information related to sexual harassment or the policy itself, which cannot be included in other the topics, such as the companys stand on sexual harassment in general and the process used in creating the policy.
2. To clearly state the details of the policy, it must include a definition of terms. Certain words may have generic meaning and it must be defined clearly as to the scope of use of the policy to avoid misconceptions. For example, the word employee could mean every individual working for the company, which includes regular, part time and per project staff regardless of employment level or it could mean all regular or full time rank and file employees only. If these terms are not clearly defined in the policy, it could lead to varying interpretations of the rules, which could prove even more damaging to the employees involved and the company.
3. And lastly the actual policies and procedures must be clear and concise. The interpretation of what constitutes a case of sexual harassment must be enumerated. Procedures on the method of reporting violation, process of investigation, and punitive action must be clearly stated. Ones the policy has been completed and approved management must also make sure that it is understood by all parties involved. A well-organized information drive must be in place to train existing employees and it must be included in the human resources training procedure for new employees in the future.
Sexual harassment is a reality in any establishment or institution (whether educational, governmental and the likes) and only a pro active (versus reactive) policy on this will help the organization keep productivity up and sexual harassment cases down.