Developing a Sexual Harassment Policy

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  • 0:34 Defining Sexual Harassment
  • 1:00 Complaint Procedure &…
  • 2:40 Education
  • 3:27 Inspection & Monitoring
  • 4:03 Dispute Resolution &…
  • 5:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Prevention of sexual harassment requires a sound foundation. A well-developed sexual harassment policy provides such a foundation for prevention. In this lesson, you'll learn about key components for such policies.

Sexual Harassment Policy

Sexual harassment can cost an organization greatly in terms of productivity, morale, employee retention, and money. Perhaps the best way to manage the risk an organization faces from sexual harassment is to develop an effective sexual harassment policy, which outlines the rules and procedures relating to defining, reporting, investigating, and remedying sexual harassment. The policy should be in writing, given to each member of the organization as part of an education process, and ideally should be separate from a general discrimination policy as the concepts are sufficiently different.

Defining Sexual Harassment

The keystone of any sexual harassment policy is clearly defining sexual harassment for members of the organization. It's important to not only set forth the legal definition of sexual harassment but also provide concrete and clear examples of behavior that constitutes it. If members don't understand what sexual harassment is, they can't refrain from engaging in it, help stop it, or report instances of it.

Complaint Procedure & Remediation

Having a policy is necessary but not sufficient to protect your organization from the problems and liability of sexual harassment. An organization must take timely and effective action to remedy sexual harassment. This usually starts with a well-developed complaint procedure.

The complaint procedure should be in writing. Members of the organization should receive a copy of the written procedure and it should be explained to them. The complaint procedure should include the following elements:

  • Procedures for making a complaint in a safe and confidential manner, including procedures for making a complaint that avoids having to complain to the alleged harasser, such as an offending supervisor
  • Procedures for the confidential reporting of an observation of sexual harassment by one who is not the victim
  • Procedures to protect the confidentiality of the accused harasser to protect against defamation and other legal actions should the allegation be unfounded
  • Procedures for fairly and objectively investigating complaints
  • Procedures for determining appropriate sanctions against a harasser if harassment has occurred
  • Procedures to protect complainants and witnesses from retaliation for complaining or reporting allegations of sexual harassment

It's important to note that these procedures should be applicable to third-party harassers, such as customers, independent contractors, or vendors when relevant because an organization can be held legally liable for such third-party harassment. It's also important to make sure that the company's other policies don't help lead to third-party sexual harassment, such as the use of skimpy and demeaning uniforms.


The best sexual harassment policy doesn't help if employees don't know about it and understand it. This is where education comes into play. Education should start with new employees at orientation where the sexual harassment policy and the complaint procedures are explained in detail. Employees should receive a copy of these policies and procedures. By California law, supervisors are required to read these policies and submit a confirmation that they have received them.

Education should not stop at orientation or with new employees. Rather, education should be continuous. This continuous education can take different forms of delivery including workshops, retreats, newsletters, company memos, emails, and even bulletin boards. It's important to make sure that employees are notified of changes in the law or in company policy as soon as possible.

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