Sexual harassment is the most common type of workplace harassment. Recent statistics show that more than half of all workers (54%) have experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Because of its prevalence and damaging affects to an organization’s productivity, morale, and culture, employers must try and actively prevent and eliminate sexual harassment in their organization.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as follows:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when such conduct:
- explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment
- unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance
- creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment
The first step in preventing and eliminating sexual harassment involves educating all members of the workforce on sexual harassment and acceptable behaviors. Managers and supervisors must be given additional specialized training on how to properly handle cases of sexual harassment. The final step is setting up a process for when sexual harassment occurs: handling complaints, investigations, and corrective measures.
Who Needs to Comply with Sexual Harassment Training?
Workplace harassment, which includes sexual harassment, is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The law applies to federal, state, and local employers and governs all employment actions. Laws regarding workplace harassment are enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
In addition, five states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, and New York) have their own state laws specifically addressing sexual harassment:
California – AB 1825, AB 2053, SB 396, SB 1300, SB 1343
Connecticut – Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunity Act
Delaware – HB 360
Maine – Maine Employment Laws Revised Statute, Title 26, Section 807
New York – New York Human Rights Law § 296.1, New York City Stop Sexual Harassment Act
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