Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Employers have a corporate and social responsibility to their employees to provide a safe working environment – specifically a workplace that’s free from harassment and discrimination. Workplace harassment is often associated with unwanted sexual advances but can encompass a myriad of other aspects such as race, colour, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability and pregnancy to name a few.

Savvy employers understand it makes good business sense to keep the workplace friendly, comfortable and productive and that litigious claims can significantly damage an organisation’s brand and business reputation. Here are five helpful ways to create and maintain a harassment-free workplace:


1. Create / Document Your Harassment Policy

Construct a written policy against discrimination and harassment. Your policy should offer a description or definition of different forms of harassment and, if possible, provide scenarios to further explain what happens when unwelcome conduct becomes harassment. Review the policy for completeness and seek legal advice to ensure that the policy clearly defines harassment in accordance with federal, state and local employment laws.


2. Give Employees a Clear Plan of Action

Include into your policy a ‘what-to-do’ guide on how to report incidents to a supervisor, manager or a human resources representative. Designate a human resources specialist to handle complaints concerning workplace harassment or behavior. In case of a complaint, having two or more reference points of contact enables employees to raise their concerns safely even if their aggressor is a supervisor.


3. Establish Transparency in Complaint Resolution

Ensure that employee handbooks are revised to include your written anti-harassment policy and explains how the company will address complaints about harassment through investigation and resolution. Describe how intentional harassment will be handled in the company’s employee discipline policy.

Distribute copies of revised handbooks to all employees and obtain signed acknowledgement forms to indicate that they have received and understand the policy. Keep a copy of the signed acknowledgement in each employee’s personnel file.


4. Address Issues Promptly

When an employee raises a concern or issue with you, take it seriously. It’s important to empathize with your employee and to recognize that the sooner we can respond to issues, the better chance we will have of resolving the issue before it escalates into something more serious and harmful. No matter the situation’s outcome, acting quickly also allows the record to show your proactivity in attempting to rectify the problem.


5. Conduct Regular Training

Make it evident to your employees that your company has zero tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. Incorporate training on harassment and discriminatory treatment in your new hire orientation curriculum. Mandate regular and refresher training on an annual or as-needed basis for employees and supervisors.

Train supervisors on their roles and responsibility to maintain a harassment-free workplace. Emphasize the importance of supervisors’ roles in modelling appropriate workplace behavior for employees to emulate so as to prevent harassment from occurring.


iHR Australia believes that keeping the workplace harassment-free ultimately leads to fostering a friendly, safe and productive workplace for employees and should be at the top of every manager’s priority list. Our training programs are developed and based on adult learning principles designed to maximize learner engagement and incorporate our unique and proven methodology, Workplace Reality Theatre.

iHR Austalia’s Custodians of Culture training is suitable for employees with supervisory responsibilities, who need to know how to prevent and effectively manage bullying, harassment and discrimination issues in the workplace.

Topics addressed include:

  • The role of management in preventing and dealing with allegations of discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace
  • The intent of Equal Employment Opportunity legislation and anti-bullying guidelines
  • The importance of management and team culture and leadership style
  • What is unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment
  • What constitutes bullying/harassment and what is appropriate performance management
  • Responding to issues observed
  • Handling complaints correctly


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