How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

By Chris Huber, Business Development Director

and Casey Bean, Digital Marketing Coordinator

Businesspeople discussing together in conference room during meeting at office
News of sexual harassment allegations involving public figures has come to light in news headlines over recent years. Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, and countless other popular entertainment, media, political, and business figures have all been ousted for their offensive conduct. Although many of the reported offenses occurred years ago, the organizations represented by the accused are being discredited and held liable because of the accusations that have surfaced recently.

Sexual harassment isn’t limited to popular culture. It’s a widespread behavior that’s present in workplaces throughout the country. By clearly defining what constitutes sexual harassment at your organization and taking preventative actions, you can reduce the likelihood of sexual harassment occurring at your organization.

Sexual Harassment Policy Considerations

Sexual harassment policies should contain the following items:

  • Make clear what behaviors, both verbal and physical, constitute sexual harassment, and stress that the company has a strict no-tolerance policy.
  • Outline in your policy that employees found guilty of sexual harassment will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination. The disciplinary action should eliminate the harassment and should ensure that the victim feels unthreatened once again.
  • Encourage employees to bring forth claims of harassment so that the company can investigate, take appropriate action, and take necessary steps to prevent future harassment.
  • Include guidelines for how to report sexual harassment.
  • Include procedures for employee complaints and management personnel’s response to the complaints.[1]

Sexual Harassment Prevention Tips

Consider taking these actions to prevent sexual harassment:

  • Provide employees with at least two separate resources for reporting sexual harassment complaints. This protects the employer in case the alleged harasser is the employee’s direct supervisor.
  • Designate a female and male staff member from Human Resources to receive sexual harassment claims, preferably individuals with experience in dealing with discrimination and harassment.
  • Discipline for sexual harassment should be as severe as the actions that took place. Punishments should also be consistent for similar actions by different harassers.
  • Emphasize that victims will receive no backlash or repercussions if they report sexual harassment. Do not punish the victim for the harassment by removing him or her from their job, department or role within the company.[1]

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), employers have a legal duty to investigate sexual harassment complaints and must take actions to prevent the reoccurrence of such offensive conduct in the workplace. Download the Sexual Harassment Compliance Overview guide for best practices that will help you prevent sexual harassment at your workplace and ensure your organization is compliant with harassment laws.

Be on the lookout for more tips and strategies that will help your organization proactively manage sexual harassment and other professional liability risks. Contact your BKS Commercial Risk Advisor for key coverage recommendations.

[1].  “Preventing Sexual Harassment Claims in the Workplace.” Zywave, Inc., n.p., n.d., Web. 18 December 2017.

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