Sexual Harassment. As employers, this is an issue we never want to see arise in our workplace. In recent news, allegations of sexual harassment were made against Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Former mayoral candidate Sarah Thomson posted on social media that Ford had touched her inappropriately and made suggestive comments at a function earlier last week. Ford immediately denied this claim saying it was “absolutely, completely false.”
Since these allegations were made, a raging discussion has exploded over the news story and the “he-said, she-said” argument continues. Objectively, it’s impossible to know which person is telling the truth just based on the statements from the affected parties. So, instead of playing the blame-game, let’s take a look at how this situation was handled and the do’s and don’ts of dealing with a sexual harassment complaint in your workplace. To this end, we have enlisted the expertise of HR Consultant Josie Martiniello to help us out.
What should you do as an employer?
The Canada Labour Code defines sexual harassment as any conduct, comment, gesture, or contact of a sexual nature that is likely to cause offence or humiliation. According to the Federal Labour Program, employers must make every reasonable effort to ensure that no employee is subjected to sexual harassment. This includes issuing a relevant policy that contains at least the following elements:
In a study done by the University of South Australia, it was found that employees who lodge sexual harassment complaints are several times more likely to leave companies than their alleged perpetrators. The study has also shown that women who complain about sexual harassment often suffer more unjust treatment in the workplace. Because of these negative consequences that seem to fall on the person who issues the complaint, many incidents of sexual harassment are going unreported. This further emphasizes the importance of being prepared as an organization and having established policies that deal with sexual harassment complaints appropriately and effectively.
As with any established policy, it is important to ensure that you have the proper procedures in place to support what is written. Unfortunately, Josie notes, many organizations do not have good complaint procedures for dealing with cases of sexual harassment in the workplace.
What Does a Good Complaint Procedure Look Like?
Although sexual harassment is a serious issue and requires immediate action from the employer, it is also necessary to guard against workers lodging false allegations. Deliberately laying a false charge against another person should be clearly identified in your policy as a disciplinary offence with the expectation that this will be dealt with accordingly. The case of Ford and Thomson serves as an example of how quickly these situations can escalate in a social context. Not only was the complaint made via social media and for the public eye, it was also followed by a round of accusations and name-calling by both parties. Having the proper policies and complaint procedures in place can help to create a workplace environment that deals with sexual harassment appropriately and can also prevent issues like these from escalating out of control.
Need help developing the proper policies and procedures for your company? Clear Path can help you develop both individual policies, such as those dealing with sexual harassment, or full employee policy manuals. We can also help you become compliant with the requirements of Bill 168 (Workplace Violence and Harassment Legislation). Visit our website to find out more: www.clearpathemployer.com
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