Preventing Workplace Harassment is a Shared Responsibility

December 4, 2017 Monday Morning Wake Up Tips

Wondering what you can do to create a sexual harassment free workplace? We turned to Christine Walters, our go-to employment attorney, to share some tips with us. Let us know if you have additional questions you would like to have answered.

Today’s media headlines are replete with allegations of sexual harassment, from Hollywood to Congress to the corporate world, large and small. So why, and how, does this keep happening? Why are allegations arising that Complainants admit are five, ten or more years old?

Let’s look at the data. Each year the EEOC publishes its charges statistics from the preceding year. In the last fiscal year, sexual harassment charges comprised just 7.39% of all charges filed. Much more prevalent are charges of unlawful retaliation and discrimination based on race and disability.

Busting the Myth. Unlawful, sexual harassment is not just a women’s issue. According to EEOC data charges filed by men comprised 16.6% of all sexual harassment charges filed last year.

Encouraging Advocacy. The EEOC research found nearly 75% of victims of workplace harassment did not report it. The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) found that 29% of victims of workplace bullying do nothing and 40% of witnesses remain silent as well. Often, the number one reason touted for victims’ failure to report is fear of retaliation. However, WBI has found in its research the number one reason for not reporting was the victim’s belief the employer would do nothing about the bullying if they did report it.

So, What’s an Employer to do? Consider evaluating and implementing the EEOC’s “Promising Practices” core principles and checklists to address and prevent workplace harassment.

  • Train, train, train! Provide staff and supervisors/managers with training opportunities on what is and what is not unlawful harassment. Go beyond the basics of the law. Talk about workplace civility and your company’s policy or position on respectful conduct and what may happen when an employee engages in uncivil conduct.
  • Empower By-Stander Intervention. Encourage employees to report harassing conduct whether they feel they are a victim or a witness. The research conducted by both the EEOC and WBI found most witnesses do nothing when they observe what they believe to be harassment or bullying in the workplace.
  • Have a policy and talk about it. Have a clear policy in place that prohibits all forms of unlawful harassment, gives behavioral examples, reminds employees that the policy covers conduct exhibited by third parties such as customers, clients, visitors and more; prohibits retaliation against an employee who expresses a concern or participates in a related investigation is a great start.


Guest Contributor Christine V. Walters, JD, MAS, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Christine V. Walters, JD, MAS, SHRM-SCP, SPHR has more than 25 years of combined experience in management, employment law practice, HR administration and teaching. Since 2002 she has served as sole proprietor of FiveL Company, “Helping Leaders Limit their Liability by Learning the Law,”SM providing proactive HR and employment law consulting and training services. Her book, From Hello to Goodbye: Proactive Tips for Maintaining Positive Employee Relations has been one of the SHRMStore’s “Great 8” Best-Seller’s for six consecutive years.