Recent high-profile events pertaining to sexual harassment in the workplace have caused concern for many small business owners. And rightfully so. While there are federal laws in place to protect both female and male workers from harassment, it seems harassment is still a tremendous problem.
Clearly, employers cannot control everything that happens in the work environment. They can, however, be held liable if someone is harassed on the job. And that is frightening.
Is Sexual Harassment a Problem for Small Businesses?
Yes! Title VII, the federal law against discrimination and harassment, applies to employers with 15 or more employees. (Having less than 15 employees doesn’t make you exempt from costly complaints.) And handling a complaint may actually be worse for small business owners who do not have a legal team or HR department at their disposal. Depending on the amount of working capital you have, one complaint could shut down your business due to legal fees alone.
What’s the Best Way to Protect Your Business?
The best way to protect your business from liability is to protect your employees. You can do that, or at least exercise due diligence, by providing training, plus clear, concise written policies.
At the minimum, these policies should explain the following:
- Definition of sexual harassment
- That it will not be tolerated
- The consequences for offenders
- What an employee should do if harassed
Once you have written your policies, distribute them to all employees and require them to sign a statement proving they have received, read and understand.
What if An Employee Files a Sexual Harassment Complaint?
Proper documentation, prompt investigation, and corrective actions are critical when accusations are made. Yet, unless you are an attorney or an HR professional, these cases are quite confusing. Failure to get it right can hurt your valuable employees, cause costly lawsuits and as you may have noticed, bring on a good amount of bad PR for your company. And all it takes is a Tweet or a Facebook post to hurt your reputation.
Take Action Now and Avoid Problems Later
We understand that you are busy, but this is too important to put off until tomorrow. Simply contact us and ask for a subscription to our HR services. For one affordable, flat monthly fee, you can have access to policies, handbooks, articles, training courses for management AND employees, plus live support.
These tools and services can literally shave days off the administrative process of getting the right policies in place for your employees. They could also save your business from embarrassment and potential bankruptcy.
At the very least, we recommend you do your homework and gain a full understanding of sexual harassment laws, then implement all training and documentation necessary to ensure compliance.