How to Prepare for Sexual Harassment Complaints in Startups

man touching woman coworker's shoulder

Sexual harassment was a long standing issue before the #MeToo movement, but modern times see a necessary spotlight on this crime in an effort to stamp it out of the workplace and elsewhere. From gaming giants to retailers and Hollywood, no company or person is immune anymore.

That’s a great thing, but it can also spell disaster for companies who aren’t taking the issue as seriously as they should. For those starting up a company, proactive action against harassment and preparing to handle complaints is a necessary part of realizing your dreams.

It Starts With Training

While you may never dream of sexually harassing someone else, that doesn’t mean every person you hire feels the same. You need to make it clear to potential and new hires that your startup has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to harassment in the workplace.

With 59% of women and 27% of men reporting harassment in the workplace, proper training is one way to help reduce those numbers at your company. Engage in those uncomfortable topics, set clear policy, and make sure anyone working for your understands the investigation procedure as well as the consequences.

Plan Ahead

In being proactive, you should expect that your startup will face a sexual harassment claim somewhere along the line. Trusting that you can develop a team of exemplary human beings isn’t enough. What you need to do is identify warning signs.

Harassment is rarely on-the-nose like in a series or movie. Instead, it grows from the complexities and intricacies of human interaction. It starts small, expanding with your growing startup until it permeates the once wonderful culture your office was known for. At that point, it’s too late and you’ll find yourself in the headlines like Activision.

What you need to do is know your team and know them well. Know how they interact and watch for small infractions that may seem harmless, nipping them in the bud as they arise and making tough decisions if people cannot fall into line. You’ll also need to set the standard those employees will follow. Afterall, you’re the leader they look up to.

A final part of planning ahead is understanding legality. While you can’t be expected to know every facet of the law, there are legal experts like sexual harassment attorney Jeremy Pasternak you can turn to. They can help you get ahead of harassment and know what steps to take when it arrives to keep your startup out of legal hot water.

More Feedback

As you set the example for your team, you also need to be an open ear. Employees shouldn’t simply turn to HR when an issue happens. They should be able to come to you or management with an issue. In fact, they should want to. This allows for a more personal form of taking action and correcting behavior, strengthening the tam.

Finally, your team should feel encourages to speak up in the moment. There are times when an infraction isn’t worth someone losing their job, they just need to act more inclusive. Encouraging your team members to speak up in the moment helps them correct one another’s behavior while strengthening their bond as a team as they learn from and care about one another more.

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