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The topic of sexual harassment probably has not received this much media coverage and attention, since the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the early 1990’s.

It’s the topic that is consuming us during our commutes, during lunch breaks, and during conversations with friends and family.

Still, it seems that despite the spotlight on sexual harassment, (a spotlight that has never shined more brightly on this violation of civil rights in the workplace), the problem seems to be under-reported or not taken as seriously within small businesses in the U.S.

The majority of the workers in the United States private sector, are employed by small businesses. The EEOC estimates that in recent years, roughly 25%-85% of American women have experienced harassment on the job. Even at the low end of 25%, that is a staggering number of women.

The impact on the employees (not just the victim), but those who are also victimized by the fact that other employees are being sexually harassed, and the cost to the businesses show that the damage that sexual harassment can inflict.
Can sexual harassment be prevented or minimized? Yes.

First, companies should provide live training either on-site at the workplace or using video-conferencing. For the training to be effective, it must considered to be realistic to the circumstances of the workplace culture, it should be administered live, and is best if it is interactive, so workers can have their specific questions and concerned responded to. There are laws in place in different jurisdictions that either require training or penalize employers who don’t provide training.

Second, companies should create and distribute handbooks which contain clear written policies on non-tolerance of sexual harassment, provide clear avenues for reporting it, and explain how the company will investigate sexual harassment complaints, and take corrective action.

Third, posters in visible places reflecting the laws of the appropriate jurisdiction, is also very helpful in showing that sexual harassment will not be tolerated, and that the company will do all it can to prevent it, and/or put an end to it.

Companies are more likely to thrive when employees don’t work in an environment of fear, and employers are not liable for something as preventable as sexual harassment.

Our next blogs are going to address how employees should best go about reporting acts of sexual harassment they have been, or are being subjected to, and also about the rights of those employees who are wrongly accused of sexual harassment.