HR & Benefits News is a monthly column by Chris Cooley, co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors.
It’s important to equip independent grocery store managers and employees with a resource to handle difficult HR situations in a legal yet sensitive manner.
Make sure you understand what sexual harassment means.
Sexual harassment at work can have a toxic effect on a business’ brand and culture and can lead to low employee morale, reduced productivity and even criminal liability. So, what is harassment, or sexual harassment? According to the EEOC, harassment does not have to be of an obvious sexual nature, however, it is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex.
“Harassment can include ‘sexual harassment’ or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. For example, it is illegal to harass a man or woman by making offensive comments about men or women in general.”
This topic has become so important that different states, such as New York and California, have deadlines for mandatory sexual harassment training.
For example, On Aug. 30, 2019, the state of California amended the ruling for employers with five or more employees to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisory employees and at least one hour to all non-supervisory employees within six months of their starting the position. It is important to also note that this training must be retaken every two years.
Why does sexual harassment matter for independent grocers?
Because the environment in the independent grocer world is very much about people, it is important that there is a proper understanding about how to treat people within the company. With the various employee and employer roles and HR issues within the grocery industry, working on relationships and building the culture of a grocer’s brand is a priority. We know this can help to head off costly litigation as well.
Some important statistics:
- One in 5 Americans have been subjected to physical violence, bullying, harassment or sexual harassment at work in the past year. (“Many Americans Face Bullying, Harassment, and Abuse at Work, but Bosses Can Help,” The Rand Blog)
- The average “payment for defense and settlement charges to resolve an employment claim” is $160,000. (“How States Compare for Risk of Employee Lawsuits,” Insurance Journal)
It’s important for grocers to have proper training regarding sexual harassment and learn the benefits of and strategies for promoting a respectful work environment that is free of all forms of harassment, intimidation and discrimination. This gives all employees the correct information and puts everyone on the same playing field with regards to procedures and expectation. Using a Learning Management System (LMS) is an easy way to provide this training and sets the grocer up for success and less employee turnover.
In 2000, Dr. Blake Frank of University of Dallas, conducted research pertaining to turnover in the supermarket industry. He found that the annual cost of employee turnover, $5.8 billion, exceeded supermarket industry profits by 40 percent. This is troublesome and sexual harassment can play a big part in this.
Incorporate bystander training as well.
The best advocates for people are other people. Employees are frequently aware of harassment problems before management, but often fail to report them. The EEOC advised employers to include training on bystander intervention. It is imperative that others speak up if they see inappropriate or uncomfortable behavior.
Using an anonymous tip line or HR tool such as Manager’s HRHelp Line is a way to handle the sexual harassment in a legal, yet sensitive matter and to avoid costly fines and lawsuits. This can save time and money for the company.
To learn more about MyHRCompli E-learn (LMS) and how to prepare your employees for sexual harassment training, contact Chris Cooley of MyHRConcierge at (855)538-6947 or visit myhrconcierge.com for more information.