Most employers today have policies regarding sexual harassment, but many employees are not aware of them, recent research finds.
The Society for Human Resource Management found in a new survey of HR professionals that. 94% of their organizations have anti-harassment policies, but, 22% of non-management employees did not know for sure that these policies existed.
“A lack of information exists for some employees,” says Evren Esen, SHRM director of workforce analytics. “The research findings suggest that, in some cases, policies are discussed as part of new-hire orientation and shared only during training, which occurs once a year or once every two years.”
SHRM President Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., stresses, “To sustain a harassment-free culture, policies need to be continually reinforced by leaders and managers and be part of everyday discussions.”
He adds, “If it’s not part of your culture to be talking about this, then it is going to be harder to curb inappropriate behaviors.”
The survey found that 11% of non-management employees claim they experienced sexual harassment in the past 12 months. Of those, 76% said they did not report it for reasons including fear of retaliation or the belief that nothing would change if they did so.
“It appears that employees don’t feel that they have the power to bring allegations forward in a way that won’t harm them,” Esen notes. On the plus side, 62% of HR respondents said their organizations were assessing their culture to identify potential risks for sexual harassment.
Verbal harassment, including unwanted sexual advances through words and comments, was the most commonly cited form of sexual harassment.
“Unspoken cultural norms can allow inappropriate behavior,” Taylor says. “Sometimes the harasser might not realize that what is being said is inappropriate. This is why a culture of respect and training are important.”