How Employees Can Prevent Sexual Harassment

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

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

Sexual harassment can affect the daily work environment for not only the victim, but all employees in a workplace. However, employees are not powerless. In this lesson, you'll learn how employees can help prevent harassment from happening to themselves and others. Updated: 12/02/2020

Prevention Through Knowledge

Workplace sexual harassment can create problems for the organization and its members. The best solution to avoid sexual harassment, and the harm it imposes, is to be proactive rather than reactive. Empowering employees to help prevent sexual harassment starts with knowledge of sexual harassment.

You can break sexual harassment down into two types. The first type, quid pro quo harassment, occurs when a supervisor demands a sexual favor from a subordinate employee, either in exchange for a beneficial employment action or to avoid an adverse employment action. Examples of employment actions include hiring, firing, transferring and compensation decisions.

The second type of sexual harassment is hostile environment sexual harassment. According to the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), this type of harassment involves the victim being exposed to severe and pervasive 'verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature . . . when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.' Examples include telling inappropriate jokes, displaying lewd and offensive images and engaging in unwelcome and lewd touching.

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  • 0:00 Prevention Through Knowledge
  • 1:37 Mandatory Procedures
  • 3:34 Use Common Sense
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Preventing Sexual Harassment - Mandatory Procedures

Now that we understand what sexual harassment entails, how can we do our part? Employees need to read, understand and commit to their employer's sexual harassment policy. Your organization's sexual harassment policy outlines the rules and procedures relating to defining, reporting, investigating and remedying sexual harassment. The policies are designed to prevent and correct instances of sexual harassment in the workplace. Again, one of your responsibilities as an employee is to know and comply with the policy.

Knowing policy is not enough on its own. Employees must also know the procedures for filing complaints, and expectations of behavior. They can also be instructed by supervisors and through training on bystander intervention. In this way, employees may be braver to speak up and file complaints when they witness another employee being sexually harassed. Some organizations even have an anonymous helpline for any employees that want to speak up after experiencing or seeing sexual harassment in the workplace. The shared sense of responsibility and accountability for employees has also been encouraged through movements such as the 'MeToo' movement that emerged on social media.

In some organizations, employees also have the chance to speak up during performance appraisals. Appraisals can be more than a review of employee performance and achievements. They can also offer an opportunity for employees to raise any instances of sexual harassment that they have witnessed or experienced.

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