Sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement have inspired a culture change, and companies are placing an increased focus on company sexual harassment policies and training.

More than half (53%) of the 548 organizations surveyed said that sexual harassment policies and training would take on a greater concern in 2018, according to a new XpertHR Workplace Sexual Harassment survey.

However, while most (92%) have a formal sexual harassment policy, only 38% plan to update their policies in 2018.

"It's not only important for organizations to have sexual harassment policies in place but to update them regularly and make sure employees are aware of them," says Jessica Webb-Ayer, Legal Editor, XpertHR.

Training

Three quarters of companies currently offer sexual harassment prevention training, while 22% do not.

When asked about their plans for sexual harassment training in 2018, just 29% were planning to offer it, 43% were unsure if they would offer it, and 27% were not planning to offer training. Only 18% are planning to offer bystander training.

"Human resources departments should ensure that their supervisors are educated on harassment protection," explains Webb-Ayer. "Employers may face increased liability risks for failing to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent harassment from occurring."

Confidentiality Agreements

When it comes to confidentiality, only 39% of the respondents thought confidentiality agreements should be included in a sexual harassment settlement, while 32% had no opinion, and 28% said no.

The survey respondents who answered no, felt that "agreements protect the perpetrators," "transparency is key to shedding light on the problem of sexual harassment," and "the agreements would allow sexual harassment to continue."

When asked to estimate the average amount paid for each settlement, survey respondents revealed that 18% were more than $50,000.
Only a few of the organizations surveyed had reached confidentiality agreements during the past five years (76% had zero settlements, while 2% had 20 or more).

Respondents who indicated that their organizations had settled sexual harassment claims in the past said they could be very costly to organizations. When asked to estimate the average amount paid for each settlement, survey respondents revealed that 18% were more than $50,000.

Increased Scrutiny and Confidence Levels

Overall, survey participants seemed relatively confident in their organizations' ability to combat and prevent sexual harassment:

  • Sixty-eight percent felt that their workplace culture is inclusive and provides equal opportunities for women.
  • Seventy-one percent were confident that employees in their workplace felt safe to report sexual harassment.
  • Eighty-one percent felt confident in their workplace's ability to fairly investigate sexual harassment claims.
  • Seventy-four percent felt that senior management team models good behavior and sets the tone for a harassment-free environment.

Prevention Fundamentals

XpertHR lists these five fundamentals any organization should have in place to address sexual harassment:

  1. A zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy
  2. Harassment training
  3. A multichannel complaint process
  4. Investigation procedures
  5. Retaliation protections

    Register now for CBIA's Sexual Harassment Prevention training, April 25 in Norwich or June 14 in Trumbull.