Sexual harassment is a serious allegation and one that a company’s leadership cannot ignore, even if the alleged harasser is the founder of the organization. As many companies discover, the unfortunate truth is that a problem ignored only makes matters worse for both employees and leadership. There are steps that a company can take in order to protect its reputation by first providing protection for employees from harassment. Business leaders should pay attention and receive guidance from professionals if needed in order to ensure that they provide a safe workplace for those that help make the company a success. If preventing sexual harassment is not a priority for a company, it will likely soon find itself embroiled in expensive and often protracted litigation for an issue that never should have been.
Step One: Training
One mistake that is made by many companies that are still being strongly influenced by a founder (or group of founders) is to believe that they are infallible. As an omnipotent, all-knowing founder, these individuals are often treated as if they do not need training on what is and is not appropriate behavior in the workplace. Just as a strong personality is necessary to survive in the harsh landscape that is the modern business world, it is imperative that this personality is taught how to behave toward those who look to him or her for guidance.
Step Two: Follow Through
Training means nothing if those who do not abide by the rules are not held accountable. What is lost on many company leaders is that this rule must apply to all employees, regardless of their status or position. Any person who is accused of harassment must be treated to the same investigation as any other employee. This means that an actual investigation must take place and if necessary, punishment must follow. A full workplace investigation should include interviews of all relevant parties and witnesses, as well as a thorough review of any surveillance, documents, and other extrinsic evidence that is available. The investigation should be completed by an objective third party in order to show all employees that allegations are taken seriously and the outcome is credible.
Step Three: Trust
In order for a company’s leadership to have the respect of its workforce, the employees must be able to trust that they will be allowed to come to work in a safe environment. They must be able to trust that inappropriate behavior will be rooted out and publicly made an example of so as to prevent further abuses in the future. Without this level of trust, employees are more likely to be distracted by a negative working environment and, when they have reached the end of their patience, seek redress from the court system and elsewhere.
Sexual harassment is a serious crime and one that only serves to rot an otherwise healthy company from within. If your company is facing allegations, or your leadership is in need of additional reminders of their responsibility toward employees, call the professionals at Garcia & Gurney today.
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