In the battle against workplace sexual harassment, only those with the right tools will succeed. So if you’re looking to beef up your toolkit, the best place to start is with a full, foundational understanding of sexual harassment.
(Also for your toolkit: borrow this effective, comprehensive Sexual Harassment Policy Template.)
We’ve put together this sexual harassment training video to present you with the knowledge, tricks and strategies necessary to investigate and prevent sexual harassment the right way.
Scroll down to watch the video, read the summary and transcript, or download bonus resources.
Sexual Harassment Training Video Summary:
First, the video will recap some basic information about sexual harassment such as the definition, what makes it illegal, how often workers experience it and who is most likely to be a victim.
Second, we differentiate between two types of sexual harassment at work: hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Then, we will share six warning signs of workplace sexual harassment that you’re probably overlooking.
Plus, we will explain step-by-step how to effectively investigate sexual harassment from the second you receive the complaint to the follow-up steps once the case is closed.
Finally, you will learn the five components of a successful anti-harassment strategy.
Is Your Anti-Harassment Strategy Not Working?
You may be forgetting one (or more) of the five key pieces of an effective harassment prevention strategy. Use this cheat sheet to pinpoint exactly what it is that you’re missing.5 Steps to Prevent Workplace Sexual Harassment Cheat Sheet
If you’re interested in accessing the other bonus resources mentioned in the video, here they are:
Understanding Sexual Harassment
By the end of this video, you’re going to have a complete understanding of sexual harassment. We’re going to examine the types of sexual harassment that can occur in your workplace, then we’ll share some proven tips for identifying and preventing incidents of sexual harassment.
But first some info about i-Sight. i-Sight is a leading provider of investigative case management software. i-Sight software helps companies investigate and prevent harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment lawsuits can reach the 100 million dollar mark, not including the costs of absences, turnover and low productivity. This is why some of the most successful companies in the world use i-Sight software to save money and protect their employees by effectively investigating and preventing harassment.
Today, you’re going to learn the six warning signs of sexual harassment at work. We’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide to investigating harassment and share our proven five-step process for harassment prevention. Throughout the video, we’ll share bonus i-Sight resources for your investigations and HR teams.
Defining Sexual Harassment
According to the EEOC, it’s “unlawful to harass a person (applicant or employee) because of their sex. This can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature”.
Put simply, sexual harassment is harassment based on gender and violates Title VII. Title VII is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of characteristics such as gender, age and race.
A recent EEOC study concluded that between 25 and 85 per cent of women have been victims of sexual harassment at work.
But, “based on gender” means men are victims too. In fact, an online survey by the Washington Post found that 10 per cent of men are victims of sexual harassment at work.
And those are only the ones we know about. A 2018 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 72 per cent of those who have been sexually harassed at work don’t report the incident.
There are two main types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Both violate Title VII but look pretty different.
Let’s take a look at the definitions of hostile work environment and quid pro quo so you know how to identify each.
Types of Sexual Harassment 1: Quid Pro Quo
Quid pro quo is a Latin term that translates to “something for something”. It’s often the less obvious of the two common forms of sexual harassment: it’s exchange-based and looks a bit like bribery.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens when a superior offers an employee professional benefits in return for sexual or romantic favors. Or when an employee is denied benefits or threatened for rejecting sexual or romantic favors. Even if the superior doesn’t intend to follow through on the benefits or threats, the request still constitutes quid pro quo sexual harassment.
The harasser may offer perks for the victim such as a job offer, a raise or a promotion. On the flip side, the harassment may also consist of threats such as demotion or termination.
Here’s an example of quid pro quo harassment: Sandi’s manager, Matthew, asks her to have dinner with him at his home. Sandi feels this is inappropriate, and declines. He asks again, this time hinting that there might be some discussion over dinner about a new role for her in the company. Sandi’s torn but ultimately accepts because she really wants a promotion and fears repercussions for turning down her manager. In this case, Sandi’s manager Matthew has coerced an employee into an uncomfortable situation in return for a possible professional favor.
Sometimes, workplace relationships might be mistaken for quid pro quo harassment. Here’s an example of a relationship that does not fit the definition: John and Tammy are colleagues and began secretly seeing each other outside of the office several months ago. Now, they’re dating exclusively. Their relationship is completely consensual and, although they work together, neither one has had an effect on the other’s employment.
The difference here between quid pro quo harassment and a legal relationship between colleagues is intent, consent and equality.
Types of Sexual Harassment 2: Hostile Work Environment
Hostile work environment is a type of harassment defined by behavior in a workplace that makes it difficult or uncomfortable for another person due to harassing behaviors. This includes sexually-charged, hostile or offensive comments and actions. A hostile work environment can be something that manifests over time through many smaller acts, or the result of a few serious incidents.
Sexually-charged or hostile action might mean unwelcome sexual advances, sexual innuendos, sexually suggestive jokes or comments, unwelcome and inappropriate touching, or sharing sexual photos or content.
Let’s take a look at an example. Joanne has been working at a company for the past five months without issue. One day her cubicle neighbor, Tom, put a few sexually suggestive posters up around his desk that made Joanne feel uncomfortable. Later that day she approached Tom and asked if he could take down the posters. Tom refused.
Let’s not forget that this is only one example and that sexual harassment may be different for different victims.
Warning Signs of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is an issue that can go on for a long time in your workplace without you noticing. So, what can you look for?
- Keep your eyes peeled for unexplained friction among staff.
- Monitor both supervisors and subordinates for signs of stress.
- Look for signs of favoritism.
- Keep an eye out for unusually close relationships between staff or between managers and subordinates.
- Listen for rumors.
- Pay attention to evaluations, raises or advancements and demotions, pay decreases or terminations that don’t seem right.
Take steps to stop and prevent bad behavior by talking to staff about the work environment, monitoring the workplace yourself and taking immediate action if you witness harassment.
Investigating Sexual Harassment
When investigating sexual harassment take every complaint seriously, investigate every claim right away, respond as quickly as possible and understand the importance of compliance and confidentiality.
Prompt, thorough and fair investigations are particularly important when it comes to sexual harassment. How you handle an investigation will send a message to future harassers loud and clear, and let future victims know they are supported.
Document every complaint and include this information: who was involved? What was said, what was done? When did this occur? Where? Was the alleged conduct sexual in nature, was it unwelcome? Did it involve an exchange of favors or a threat of harm?
Then respond to the issue immediately. Take immediate corrective action (if necessary) such as separating the victim and harasser. When you can, interview the subject. State the reason for the interview. Avoid jumping to conclusions and let them tell their side of the story.
Interview witnesses if there are any. Hear their stories, assess their credibility and identify any motivating factors.
Once you’ve come to a conclusion, decide whether or not disciplinary action is required. If yes, make sure it’s in accordance with your policy or handbook and make sure you commit to it.
If you don’t have a handbook, check out i-Sight’s comprehensive guide on how to write one in the description below.
When the case is closed, ask yourself why this happened. Is there something that could have been done to prevent it? Could a training seminar or a clearer policy have helped? Look at ways to prevent future incidents.
When investigating sexual harassment, there are some major mistakes to avoid: You should never ignore a claim. Never discipline a victim for speaking out, but also don’t terminate the harasser without a formal investigation. And finally – one big mistake to avoid at all costs – never suggest that the victim and harasser work their problems out themselves. This is reckless and dangerous for all parties involved.
Preventing Sexual Harassment
Effective harassment prevention typically includes five distinct pieces that reduce the amount of harassment and sexual harassment in your office.
Step one: training and awareness. Yes, it’s cliché, but the best place to start is with training and awareness so that everyone in your office understands what harassment is. Sexual harassment is a high-risk area for employers yet high-quality training for this type of harassment is often lacking. Conduct employee training focused on defining and reporting sexual harassment. Conduct separate managerial training that teaches warning signs and how to deal with complaints.
Step two: policy. Another trick for successfully preventing harassment is to develop and promote a rock-solid policy that forbids harassment, encourages effective investigations and enforces consequences for violating the policy. Specifically, your policy should define sexual harassment with examples and explicitly forbid harassing behavior. You’ll want to describe how sexual harassment will be handled: from how to file a complaint to how an investigation will be conducted to what happens if you violate the policy.
Step three: leadership. You’ll want to encourage strong leadership. It’s important to create a tone from the top that not only sets expectations for everyone in the company but also showcases respectful conduct firsthand. Disrespectful leadership and senior staff that feel they’re above policy lead to a toxic culture.
Step four: company culture. Ideally, your company’s culture will encourage respect and open dialogue. Promoting a healthy culture will make policy and training more effective, reduce the normalization of “locker room talk” and increase the likelihood that victims will feel comfortable enough to come forward.
Step five: reporting sexual harassment. It can be difficult for victims to come forward, so provide them with various ways to do so. Implement and communicate the reporting options available for victims or witnesses. An internal system, such as a hotline, can significantly increase the number of claims you get – not because more incidents are happening but because victims feel more comfortable coming forward.
i-Sight offers a hotline reporting system so if you’re thinking this might be the right solution for you, get in touch using the hotline link below.
In addition to a hotline, you can also provide an online web forum or a designated staff member to receive complaints. Make sure there’s someone neutral for potential victims to talk to. If they’re supposed to report to their manager about issues, but the manager is the harasser, they’re not going to come forward. So, you need a Plan B.
Remember, almost three-quarters of victims don’t come forward, so it’s critical to make it easy and safe for them to report it in order to stop it.
[On-Screen Text] Conclusion
You can download our five-step prevention process to keep for future reference or share with colleagues. We hope you found this video useful. Please subscribe to our channel or visit our website to learn more about workplace sexual harassment investigation and prevention, and to learn how i-Sight case management software can help your company.