Tips to Developing Your Organizational Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policy

Approximately 12,000 workers use Title VII (the federal anti- bias law) to report allegations of workplace sexual harassment with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These allegations include charges of physical assault, confinement, and verbal threats.

That is 33 cases reported each day of the year.

How long will it be until your company is affected and entrenched in legal battles that hinder work flow and cash flow, not to mention company morale?
To insure that your company or organization has clearly indicated and educated your community about sexual misconduct or harassment in the workplace, or involving work colleagues, it is critical that you publish a documented sexual harassment and misconduct policy. 

Effective policies require clear, concise, and instructional language.  Readers should know exactly what behavior IS and what is NOT tolerated at work.

Nuts and Bolts of a Sexual Harassment Policy

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started.

  1. Be very specific on the definition of sexual harassment.  Here are some examples:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment is a form of Sex Discrimination that occurs in the workplace.
Legal Definition 

Any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, which can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Colorado College, Harassment Policy

The Fair Employment and Housing Commission regulations define sexual harassment as unwanted sexual advances, or visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. This definition includes many forms of offensive behavior and includes gender-based harassment of a person of the same sex as the harasser.
California Department of Fair Employment and Housing  

Definitions of Sexual Misconduct

Any non-consensual behavior of a sexual nature including but not limited to: unwanted verbal or written conduct of a sexual nature (including texts, phone calls and internet-based communications); crude, obscene, or sexually offensive gestures or unwelcome sexual comments (including texts, phone calls and internet-based communications); and any unwanted physical touching of a sexual nature
Colorado College, Harassment Policy  

Sexual misconduct is a broad term encompassing any unwelcome behavior of asexual nature that is committed without consent or by force, intimidation, coercion, or manipulation. Sexual misconduct can be committed by a person of any gender, and it can occur between people of the same or different gender.
Operations Manual – University of Iowa
Sexual misconduct encompasses a range of behavior used to obtain sexual gratification against another’s will or at the expense of another. Sexual Misconduct includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, and any conduct of a sexual nature that is without consent, or has the effect of threatening or intimidating the person against whom such conduct is directed.

Behaviors that constitute sexual harassment and misconduct

Don’t leave it to chance or personal honor.  S.P.E.L.L it out.  Make sure there is no question about what you will tolerate.
Focus on a ZERO TOLERANCE environment.
Pt 2 of this series will outline behaviors that constitute sexual harassment and misconduct.  You can use these guidelines to assist in writing your own company Sexual Harassment and Misconduct Policies.