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What Is a Sexual Harassment Policy?

Sexual harassment could include words that make another person feel emotionally distressed.
At any workplace, it's essential that all employees feel that sexual harassment claims will be heard fairly, promptly, and without retribution.
Sexual harassment policies inform employees of the types of behavior considered inappropriate in the workplace.
Article Details
  • Written By: G. Wiesen
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 July 2014
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A sexual harassment policy is a document made available to employees at a place of work, students and teachers at a school, and other members of a group to indicate behaviors that are unacceptable. These types of behaviors are usually those that constitute sexual harassment, and though specific behaviors may vary among policies, many of them will have similar features. This type of policy will also typically indicate how violations of the policy can be reported, as well as possible consequences for such violations. A sexual harassment policy is usually posted in a visible area of a workplace, and is often given out to new employees or students.

It is typically the responsibility of the owners of a business or those who are charged with operating a business or school to create and distribute a sexual harassment policy. In many countries, including the US, sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace, schools, and public institutions. The laws that identify and criminalize forms of sexual harassment also typically require that employers and educators clearly educate employees and students on what forms of behavior are unacceptable through the use of a sexual harassment policy.

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A sexual harassment policy will typically indicate what types of behaviors are considered forms of sexual harassment, often with specific examples. This will usually include words, images, and physical acts that are sexual in nature and cause someone else to feel threatened or emotionally distressed. Sexual harassment does not always have to include explicit or sexual language, however, and comments related to gender discrimination or gender-based harassment are often part of a sexual harassment policy. Actions taken by employees, managers, and other individuals in a workplace or other institution that create a hostile or threatening environment for someone based on gender or sexual preference or identity are also forms of sexual harassment.

While a sexual harassment policy often serves to indicate what behaviors are considered forms of sexual harassment, it will also typically indicate how such harassment can be handled. The policy will usually indicate procedures for reporting sexual harassment, as well as indication of who such claims should be made to. A sexual harassment policy will also typically indicate the types of punishments that may be expected by anyone who sexually harasses someone else or someone who wrongfully accuses someone else of harassment. These punishments can include termination of employment, expulsion from a school or public institution, and criminal consequences for threats of violence or extreme behavior.

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