"Don't Talk to Women" is not a Harassment Prevention Tool

Posted by: Gail Cecchettini Whaley, Esq. on Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

When it comes to preventing workplace harassment, a recent study by SHRM has mixed reviews. While there is some progress, there is also an absence of an overall cultural shift.

The study had some discouraging results. For instance, two-thirds of executives have not changed their behaviors at all.

Of those that did change their behavior, some responses show an unrealistic overreaction to the issue of harassment prevention, such as:

• “Don’t talk to women.”
• “[Avoid] any indirect or direct contact with others, any conversation one-on-one, asking permission to enter into 3-foot personal space and NEVER closer than 3 foot of another.”
• Not asking an employee to get lunch.
• No communication or contact with employees after business hours.
• No working after hours for groups smaller than three and a manager must be present.

Unrealistic rules and overreaction can cause backlash and make the problem worse because they move away from the real issue and can blame people who raise complaints. Other disappointing comments included:

• “Women are claiming anything at all. No due diligence and convicted before trial.”
• “People are looking to nail you for sexual harassment because it is a great excuse when they are not performing.”

The study also showed a real disconnect between employer efforts to prevent harassment and the actual working environment. 72% of employees reported that they’re happy with their employer’s efforts to stop harassment, yet more than 33% of those feel that their workplace is one that fosters the occurrence of sexually harassing behaviors.

A Harassment Prevention Tool that Works: Make it Easy to Report

One harassment prevention tool that executives believe works: Increasing the number of people in the organization that employees can go to with claims of harassment. In fact, 67% responded that this would be moderately to extremely effective in influencing workplace culture/behaviors, thereby fostering a safe environment for all employees.

One way to increase the number of avenues to bring complaints is to offer a hotline.

Hotlines can help an employee feel safer coming forward with their concerns and allow employers to be proactive in handling any issues raised before they escalate into an actionable claim. A hotline can also act to deter employees from engaging in misconduct in the first place.

CEA now offers an Employee Action Hotline which provides an outlet for employee concerns. The Employee Action Hotline provides your business with an 800 number that employees can call anytime, from anywhere, 24/7. In addition to reporting harassment or discrimination, employees can also report workplace violence, safety issues, retaliation, fraud, or other misconduct. A third-party interview specialist will capture all information provided by the caller—the caller can choose to remain anonymous. CEA will deliver a report to the employer’s designated contact the next business day.

The Employee Action Hotline is a great resource to help businesses meet their compliance obligations and provide a better, safer workplace for employees.

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