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HR & Benefits News: Avoid Sexual Harassment Policy Hazards

Chris Cooley mental health
Chris Cooley

Editor’s note: HR & Benefits News is a monthly column by Chris Cooley, co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors.

Stories of accused sexual harassers like Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer and others appear daily in the media. More than ever before, grocers are at risk if they don’t have the right sexual harassment policies and procedures in place. 

Sexual harassment costs

Sexual harassment can cost grocers millions of dollars in settlements as well as the loss of community support from a tarnished reputation. Less visible costs include dwindling employee morale and productivity as well as growing worker turnover.

Four ways to avoid sexual harassment pitfalls

Here are four ways you can protect yourself from the growing risk of non-existent or bad sexual harassment policy.

1. If you don’t have a published sexual harassment policy…get one now!

This first step lays the groundwork for protecting your organization from the risks of sexual harassment. Clearly communicating how employees and your organization should respond when harassment occurs is essential in today’s environment.

A well-written sexual harassment policy published in an up-to-date employee handbook serves as a foundation for reporting these types of accusations as well as fairly investigating and remediating them.

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2. Review your sexual harassment policy and non-disclosure documents…right away!

Reviewing and updating your sexual harassment policy is a great way to jumpstart the annual review of your employee handbook, non-disclosure agreements and other related documents.

Ask yourself two key questions when reviewing the policy:

1) How well does it educate workers about their rights in the workplace?

2) How well does it outline what does and does not constitute harassment?

“Harvey Weinstein used elaborate non-disclosure agreements to silence accusers…,” according to a recent Huffington Post article. This is one of the reasons that non-disclosure agreements are facing increased scrutiny.

Some attorneys advise against agreement or settlement language that prohibits a victim from going to law enforcement or taking part in an EEOC claim. Title VII and the National Labor Relations Act nullify agreements that attempt to limit discussions of workplace conditions and charges of discrimination by workers.

3. Give employees multiple ways to report sexual harassment and register complaints.

Employers put themselves at risk if they don’t practice and enforce what’s outlined in their sexual harassment policies. That includes providing multiple ways for employees to effectively report incidents.

Many companies are adding anonymous worker tip lines. It’s a relatively inexpensive way to give employees another way to confidentially report harassment. An anonymous employee tip line empowers workers to speak up about workplace concerns. They can remain nameless. And it gives employers a chance to deal with harassment and other complaints before they get out of hand.

4. Give managers the resources they need to handle sexual harassment incidents.

Effective sexual harassment training for executives and managers is a basic starting point. We suggest supplementing harassment training with a managers HR help line—one staffed with a knowledgeable, HR expert that managers can call for practical step-by-step guidance and suggestions as situations arise.

You may want to check out the EEOC’s new training on harassment prevention and creating respectful workplaces. An “outgrowth” of the EEOC’s Task Force Study on Harassment in the Workplace, the training program reportedly addresses “compliance, workplace civility and bystander intervention training.”

Chris Cooley is co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors. Clients rely on him for employee handbooks, anonymous worker tip lines, manager HR help lines, HR compliance and administration, workforce management and benefits advisory solutions. Cooley’s companies specialize in helping small to mid-sized grocers throughout the U.S. He can be reached at 855-538-6947, ext. 108 or at [email protected]

Keep reading:

HR & Benefits News: Lower Costs With Annual Benefits Plan Review

HR & Benefits News: The Real Cost Of Worker Turnover For Grocers

HR & Benefits News: How FMLA Applies To Grocers


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