Anti-harassment policies a mystery for many

Although most employers have a policy on sexual harassment—a basic tool for preventing and addressing inappropriate behavior—many employees are not aware of it, the Society for Human Resource Management found in new research.

Ninety-four percent of surveyed HR professionals told SHRM that their organizations have anti-harassment policies. Yet, 22% of nonmanagement employees did not know for sure that these policies existed.

SHRM researchers speculate that policies are often discussed as part of new-hire orientation and then are addressed only sporadically afterward.

The research, conducted in January, included two confidential surveys of HR professionals with a total of 1,078 respondents and a survey of 1,223 nonmanager employees.

Incidents of sexual harassment appear to be under-reported by employees. Eleven percent of nonmanagement employees said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment in the past 12 months. Of those, 76% said they did not report it for reasons that included fear of retaliation or a belief that nothing would change, a finding consistent with previous EEOC reports.

Thirty-six percent of HR professionals reported at least one sexual harassment allegation at their organization within the past 12 months. Of these, 36% reported an increase in allegations in the past year.

The survey found that verbal harassment, including unwanted sexual advances through words and comments, was the most common form of workplace sexual harassment.

Thirty-two percent of organizations made changes to their sexual harassment training in the past year. The most common changes were to include workplace civility and to tailor training to a specific workforce, two suggestions the EEOC has endorsed.

Most employers use technology to deliver training, with 37% using online/video training, and 36% using both online/video and face-to-face training.

Read the full survey report at tinyurl.com/SHRM-harassment-survey.

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