Employee Handbook Policy on Sexual Harassment
With what’s at risk for a small business owner it is very important to have an employee handbook policy on sexual harassment. Whether the harassment is coming from a fellow coworker or worse from someone in a leadership role it can be devastating to your work team. Even more alarming, as a supervisor you should know that you can be held personally responsible if you knew, or should have known, the sexual harassment was taking place. Just one of many steps you can take in advance to reduce any potential liability if someone ever does file a law suit against your company is to have a policy on sexual harassment and make sure everyone is made aware of it.
As I mentioned above, as a supervisor there are certain things that you are expected to know even if you are not made directly aware of them. As an example, if someone claims that you knew the sexual harassment was taking place because the sexual comments and unwelcomed touching they were experiencing was taking place every day during the morning meeting. They may have a very good point and that is exactly why as a supervisor you must continually be aware of any staff member’s poor or inappropriate behavior.
As you develop your employee handbook policy on sexual harassment there are some things you must consider and one very important part of the policy should define whether staff members can date. Although it seems like it shouldn’t be a problem allowing employees to date, it does have the potential to cause problems. When any relationship is going well everyone seems to get along just fine; however, as soon as one of the parties is no longer happy things can turn south quickly. When one of the parties thinks the relationship still exists and the other doesn’t it can cause unwelcomed sexual advances which by definition is sexual harassment. So consider it carefully how you will address this very important issues.
If you do allow employees to date the other question would be whether any more senior can date someone less senior no matter whether the person works in a different area of the company. An easy way to sort this out is to determine if the more senior person has any power, or perceived power, over the less senior person. If they do, then they shouldn’t date.
Training should also be a big part of your employee handbook policy on sexual harassment. If your small business is located in California (AB1825) you may be required (depending on how many employees you have) to conduct very structured training of employees and those in a leadership role. However, even if you are not required it is still very important that your employees know what behavior is acceptable and what isn’t.
When it comes to actually writing your employee handbook policy on sexual harassment, or any other employee handbook policies for that matter, there are a number of very good electronic programs that are very helpful and that are very inexpensive. I have had the opportunity to take a look at a number of them and the prices range from less than fifty, which is the one I decided upon, to those that are hundreds of dollars. They all are developed by attorneys and cover the area’s most small business need to cover.
Thank you and May God bless you!
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