Sexual Harassment In The Digital Age

Recently, we sat down with Mallory Basore, a Human Resources Manager at Staff One, Inc. who specializes in sexual harassment training. During our conversation, she shared with us some of her best advice for HR managers dealing with sexual harassment prevention and training in their workplace.

Social Media

Of course, one of the most obvious features of the digital age is social media, and sites like Facebook and Instagram can mean a new channel for sexual harassment. Mallory explains, “I’m seeing a lot more complaints that stem from social media. Things are happening away from the workplace, after hours but between colleagues via Facebook Messenger or over Instagram, so a lot of employers’ and employees’ first assumption is that it’s not sexual harassment since they’re not at work and it’s their own personal social media. While that might be true, you still can’t harass your coworkers.” This can lead to difficult situations for both HR managers and employees alike; the best way to avoid them is to provide clear training to employees that stresses the fact that harassment can happen both during and after work.

Workplace Relationships

Office romances certainly aren’t new to the digital age, but with the advent of dating apps and social media, it can become even more complicated for HR managers. Mallory offers her advice for handling these situations, saying, “It is natural for employees to develop friendships and relationships with people that they work with. You spend a lot of time with the people that you work with and sometimes that can turn into something romantic. In that case, it’s not going to meet the definition of harassment since it is welcomed, so I encourage people that find themselves in that situation to come forward and let somebody in management know. That way, it doesn’t come back to bite them later if there’s a breakup and somebody comes forward saying, ‘Look at all these messages I’ve received. They were harassing me that whole time.’ ” Teaching your employees how to protect themselves in these situations can save all parties involved any stress or headache later on.

Update Your Policies

With all the changes that accompany technology, as well as the increased attention on sexual harassment in the workplace as a result of the #metoo movement, an HR manager would be remiss not to update the company policies regarding sexual harassment. Mallory says, “I would recommend that companies update their handbook to ensure that they have a policy related to harassment. I write handbooks all the time, and to be totally honest, I’m aware that no one wants to read those. But having a meeting to go over those really key policies, things like harassment and workplace violence can ensure everybody knows that you take it very seriously.” Mallory also suggests implementing a zero-tolerance policy when updating handbooks, so that if a sexual harassment claim can be substantiated, that employee can be terminated. This will show all employees just how seriously your company takes this issue.

While sexual harassment is certainly not a topic anyone, especially an HR manager, likes to discuss, it is increasingly important as companies step into the digital age. By combining well-written policies with strong and clear communication with all employees, you can do your best to ensure it doesn’t happen in your office.