Sexual harassment has been in the news a lot recently. Some of the top companies are experiencing the repercussions of lawsuits; Google, ESPN, Red Lion Hotels, and Lithia Motors to name a few. This has gotten the attention of CEO’s and Executives running small business. Most small businesses under 50 employees do not have an HR person on staff, therefore, they have no one for employees to come to if there was an allegation, except the top executives.
My favorite saying in HR is “I don’t know, what I don’t know”. If you’re a CEO of a small business and have a sexual harassment allegation, ignorance in not an excuse.
The EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) states, “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.”
So the question still remains, How does a small business, with no HR person, handle sexual harassment and the prevention of sexual harassment?
Some tips I’ve learned:
- Create a sexual harassment policy specifically stating the company does not tolerate it.
- Hold a training on the topic yearly, but also remind employees at company meetings throughout the year, the policy in place, who they can talk to if they feel there is an issue, and actually do something about any situation that is brought to your attention!
- Create a culture where employees feel comfortable coming to you (or any leader/executive) if they feel something has happened.
When all else fails and you find an incident has happened it’s always a good idea, as a small business, to consult an employment attorney.