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Addressing sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace

Following widespread reports of sexual harassment and gender discrimination over the past year, we all have become more aware of these serious workplace issues. These examples serve to remind us of our duty to comply with existing law and ensure that our workplaces are fair and safe for employees at every level.

Most allegations don’t relate to behavior as obvious or salacious as the ones we hear in news reports, so don’t think your company is immune from these threats.

Revisit and revise your policies on sexual harassment

How is your company confronting the prospect of sexual harassment? Are your corporate policies sufficient to address the changing environment?

If your company hasn’t reviewed and updated your sexual harassment policy lately, now is the time. Read it, mark it up with questions and comments, and ask an attorney to review it. Be sure it defines prohibited workplace behaviors and unequivocally forbids sexual harassment. That’s a start.

But, a policy banning sexual harassment in the workplace needs to do more than just that. It should explain how employees can make a complaint, with several options for doing so. Understandably, employees who make allegations against a supervisor don’t want to approach that person with a complaint.

Your policy should state that employees can report harassment without fear of retaliation, which prevents many people from speaking up. It should also address how your company investigates these instances and mandate anti-harassment training for supervisors, at least, but preferably for employees at all job levels.

While being proactive about sexual harassment is an undertaking you might rather avoid, it’s the right step to ensure a secure and equitable workplace. Ideally, it will prevent issues in the future, potentially saving your company the cost of legal fees or settlements.

Avoiding discrimination in hiring practices

Beware, too, of sexual discrimination in interviewing and hiring. Don’t ask questions of candidates related to their sex, gender, or sexual orientation. In addition, don’t ask for their marital status, whether they have children, or if they’re pregnant or planning to be.

By asking only questions that are relevant to the job, you should be in safe territory. Questions related to the job’s requirements can usually provide you with all the answers you need.

Avoid questions about salary history as well. Discussion continue to grow to make it illegal to ask candidates for their salary histories. (Philadelphia and other cities have banned it; some states have, too; and federal legislation has been introduced.) Because women have often been paid less than men, compensation decisions based on salary history may perpetuate that imbalance.

Stay on top of changes in HR laws—we can help you

With continual changes in employment laws, staying current will help avoid problems. Our HR consulting professionals are on top of all revisions and can guide you in formulating policies and hiring practices.

Talk with us here at TriStarr, an employment agency with human resources consulting services in Lancaster, PA. Contact us online, or give us a call at (717) 560-2111.

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