There is no time like the present for companies to review their sexual misconduct policies. The first step in such a review is to take a look at your employee handbook (assuming your company has one). In the handbook, among other things such as vacation and sick time procedures, your company’s sexual misconduct policies and reporting procedures should be clearly explained. It simply isn’t enough for an employer to have a blanket policy prohibiting sexual misconduct in the workplace (which should be a given). You must also have clear procedures for handling workplace harassment claims.
What should be included in your policy?
-How sexual harassment would be handled within the company. For example, a confidential investigation, no retaliation on the person coming forward or witnesses, no retaliation tolerated from others.
-Statement of the federal and state laws on sexual misconduct.
-A clear statement of the company stance on sexual misconduct.
-Make clear that employees must come to you immediately if they or someone they know has experienced or witnessed sexual misconduct. Impress the importance and severity of the issue on employees i.e.: “it is a part of our policy that you must tell us if sexual misconduct is occurring”.
-Tell employees what the reporting procedure is; who to go to/talk to if they have an issue. And give them a secondary person to go to if they feel uncomfortable going to the other person with the issue. These people should be higher ups in the company such as vice president and president.
With clear and consistent policies, you allow employees to feel more comfortable coming forward. By outlining the process to employees before an issue arises, and then having it available in writing for review, they know who to go to and what to expect from the process. They can also feel comfort knowing that they will not be subject to retaliation, and that any such claims (at least initially) will be held in strict confidence.
What about small businesses?
The above reporting procedure may work well for larger businesses since there are likely to be multiple leaders within the company. But small businesses sometimes have only one boss or owner of the company. It is important to have two different leaders that employees can report sexual misconduct to, in case one of those leaders is involved in misconduct. As an alternative method, some companies will include their corporate counsel as an alternative contact person authorized to receive reports of employer misconduct.
Is your company’s policy legally sufficient?
Firm Attorney Ed Price has represented small and medium sized businesses for almost 15 years. Over the years, he has reviewed and drafted countless employee handbooks and sexual misconduct policies. If you have an existing sexual misconduct policy and want it reviewed, consultations start at just $250.00. If you think that it’s time for a complete overhaul of your employee handbook, a new employee handbook for your company – including a tailored sexual harassment policy for the size and scope of your business – starts at $750.