Unless you’ve been living with your head in a pumpkin, you’ve now seen/heard countless news stories regarding instances of sexual harassment and assault, from Harvey Weinstein to George H.W. Bush. Beyond never again being able to look at a potted plant the same (thanks, Harvey), here are six workplace takeaways:
- Sexual harassment is alive and well. There are (or at least there were/have been) plenty of nay-sayers who believe that sexual harassment is a thing of the past. Clearly that is not the case and no one should be assuming that is the case in the workplace.
- Anything that could constitute sexual harassment must be taken seriously. Plenty of people apparently knew about Weinstein’s crazy disgusting ways, but chalked it up to “Harvey being Harvey.” Let’s be clear: there is and cannot be any “Harvey being Harvey” in the workplace. Every employee handbook includes a sexual harassment policy stating that sexual harassment is taken seriously. Don’t just say it, do it.
- Because an employee does not immediately raise sexual harassment to your attention does not mean it’s any less serious or that it was welcome. We’ve heard this numerous times over the years, but these recent stories, many of which involve events that transpired years ago, should drive this point home.
- If you see or if someone who works for you sees conduct that could constitute sexual harassment, begin the investigation process. Going back to point 3, not all sexual harassment is immediately reported and it’s your job to make sure it has no place in your workplace, reported or not.
- Even if an employee asks you not to take any action or to “keep it quiet” for now, you need to do your job and begin the investigation process. Again, it’s your duty to make sure sexual harassment does not occur in your workplace and, if it does, that it is promptly and properly addressed.
- The current spotlight on sexual harassment provides a prime opportunity for you to review your handbook, policies, and procedures (particularly complaint procedures), to make sure they are up-to-date, designed to effectively address problems, and do not leave anything unaddressed. It’s also a great time to make sure your executives, management, and supervisors are all properly trained to handle and address sexual harassment in the workplace, and that your employees are trained on how to identify it and bring it to your company’s attention.