Sexual harassment has been in the headlines in recent months—so much so you couldn’t miss it, especially as it pertains to harassment in the workplace. KMA is joining the conversation by offering employers ideas on how to respond proactively, including public training on the topic starting in January.
First Things, First: It’s Against the Law
Sexual harassment (and harassment of any type) is against the law, which is plain, simple, and clearly stated, having its original roots in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Beyond being illegal, harassing behaviors have the unfortunate potential to be demeaning and destructive to victims and work cultures.
Employers who have found themselves having to react to harassment complaints, know firsthand of its counterproductivity. If complaints carry on and employers find themselves navigating the judicial process, businesses can expect costs associated with legal fees for defending a single harassment case and lost productivity averaging in the ballpark of $250,000. That’s a dollar figure no employer wants to incur!
Building Harassment-Free Workplaces
KMA supports organizations in their efforts to build and sustain workplace cultures where all employees feel safe and valued—that’s what matters most when we talk about harassment-free workplaces. We recommend that every employee participate in annual Anti-Harassment Training because it sets up and reinforces clear expectations about conduct in your workplace.
Anti-Harassment Training encourages employees to speak up at the first sign of behaviors that could infringe on a respectful workplace. Every employee plays an important role in sustaining healthy work cultures.
Maine is one of a few states in the nation to mandate harassment training. This is required within a year of hire in workplaces with 15 or more employees, including additional training for supervisors. Annual harassment notices are also required regardless of the number of employees. This year, Maine enacted legislation for enforcement and penalties for noncompliance.
Be a Proactive Employer
What can you do to help set your organization on the right path? If you are in a leader/manager position—be sure to walk around and engage your employees on a regular basis. Casual conversations can reveal a lot about how employees are interacting with each other.
Ask employees what they need to be happy, engaged, satisfied, and able to do their best work. Build a sense of community where your employees know that you care, check-in frequently, and have a pulse on the general atmosphere.
Leaders who role model these behaviors along with appropriate conduct, encourage these same qualities in their employee population. Also, employees are more likely to speak up because they know others have their backs.
Other proactive measures include:
- Have all employees participate in annual Anti-Harassment Training and ensure that it is documented.
- Make sure your policies on harassment and employee conduct are up-to-date and distributed annually. Be clear on what behavior and conduct is prohibited.
- Address inappropriate conduct quickly—never delay.
- Train managers and supervisors on how to handle complaints of harassment.
- Treat all harassment complaints seriously and conduct thorough investigations.
- Ensure employees are protected against retaliation for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation.
- Tap into your Human Resources department for guidance and keep them informed.
For harassment training to be fully compliant, employers must also provide employees in Maine with information on their organization’s internal complaint process. This should be included in the company sexual harassment policy and sent annually to employees to satisfy the notice provisions of state law. Please contact KMA if you need assistance in developing a sexual harassment policy which meets Maine requirements.
For More Assistance & Training
KMA is committed to offering anti-harassment training that meets the State of Maine requirements for employers and encourages a harassment free workplace. In addition to the training we currently offer at employer workplaces, we will be offering a training session on January 10, 2018 at The Woodland Club in Falmouth to help employers, employees, and other members of the public prevent and stop the damaging effects of all types of harassing behaviors. Participants will learn about legal requirements and what to do when harassment occurs. Click on the button below for more information and to register for this event.
And, as always, feel free to contact KMA any time with questions and to be sure your employees are up-to-date and that you are taking proper steps as an employer.