Every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. This alarming fact from the DEA tells us we all need to do a better job protecting each other. As a business owner or HR person, you can do your part to lead by example. Treat your teammates with respect and equality. Ensure their safety. Do not tolerate sexual misconduct in your workplace. 

What’s more, you can provide sexual harassment training. In fact, this workplace training is mandated by law in these states

Get in touch with us here if you’re seeking assistance with ensuring compliance in sexual harassment training. 

Sexual Assault and Harassment in the Workplace 

According to this recent survey of 2,000 employees, 26% of U.S. office workers report having experienced harassment in the workplace. And 99% of the entire Fortune 500 have made payments to plaintiffs in at least one employment discrimination or harassment lawsuit since 2000. 

Asure’s 2023 survey of 2,065 U.S. small businesses found that most (62%) conduct sexual harassment training. But this leaves the other 38% vulnerable to lawsuits.  

Asure’s VP of Human Resources Consulting, Mary Simmons, said in our webinar about How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, “Employers that we support that have unfortunately found themselves in court defending themselves against harassment. One of the first things that the court is going to ask is, do you have a policy that informs employees?” 

“Do you have a policy for anti-discrimination and sexual harassment? Have you done any training so that your employees understand what sexual harassment is?” 

Mary, who is also an Adjunct Professor with the New York Institute of Technology, continues, “Because I will tell you one of the things that we assist employers with is investigations… What constitutes sexual harassment? That’s why you need to do the training… to show that you have a culture of zero tolerance.” 

What Is Sexual Harassment? 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as: 

“It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. 

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general. 

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.” 

Did you know that any of the following actions can potentially be sexual harassment? 

  • Staring, leering, or making gestures of a sexual nature 

  • Blocking a person’s movement 

  • Displaying, sending, or sharing vulgar pictures or pornography 

  • Wearing a t-shirt with sexually suggestive words or images  

  • Murmuring when a person walks by  

  • Inquiring about another person’s sex life or talking about your sex life  

  • Giving a person an unwanted massage  

Keys to Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace 

  • Open communication about sexual harassment 

  • Employee training, especially for managers and leaders 

  • Written policies and procedures 

  • Take accusations seriously 

How to Take Sexual Harassment Seriously 

1 – Acknowledge the complaint.  
Let the employee know their complaint will be investigated. 

2 – Investigate thoroughly.   
Interview everyone involved. Document it.  

3 – Protect the complainant from retaliation.  
This can include communicating with the person regularly to ensure they are not experiencing retaliation or negative consequences as a result of their complaint. You may also need to transfer the accused person to a different department. 

4 – Take disciplinary action if the investigation finds that sexual harassment occurred. 
This can include terminating the employment of the person who committed the sexual harassment. 

5 – Provide support, such as counseling, to the complainant.  

Benefits of a Safe and Respectful Workplace Culture 

A workplace where everyone feels comfortable and free of stressful inappropriate interactions leads to: 

1 – Increased productivity. 
Employees who aren’t distracted by unsafe feelings and unwelcome remarks can focus on the work.  

2 – Increased employee retention. 
Employees want to feel valued. Not felt up. 

The National Sexual Violence Resource Center cites a study that found “1 in 7 women and 1 in 17 men have sought a new job assignment, changed jobs, or quit a job because of sexual harassment and assault.” 

3 – Increased attendance. 
A toxic work environment can lead to stress, headaches, emotional exhaustion, and more.  

4 – Greater collaboration.  
Victimized workers are less likely to feel safe working closely or even cooperating with someone who engages in harassment. Even worse, if it’s a supervisor who propagates or permits this behavior, the company’s culture can be poisoned. 

5 – Improved employer brand. 
Your employer brand is your reputation with potential new hires. It’s harder to get applicants when your business has a reputation for being a place that permits sexual harassment.  

Warren Buffett famously stated, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it.”   

How much would it cost financially (and emotionally) to rebuild your company’s reputation after it’s stained with a sexual harassment suit? For more insight, check out our webinar on how a great workplace attracts better workers.  

Surprising Benefit of Outsourced HR for Sexual Harassment Claims  

Mary Simmons, SHRM-CP and VP of HR Consulting at Asure, explained it this way in our Sexual Harassment webinar, “Part of the strength of having outsourced HR is I’m not friends with the owner. I’m not the owner. We are external and what we find is that the employees were more comfortable coming forward because we made it clear here’s the person that you can go to. And they’re external.” 


Mary Simmons summarizes it this way, “The golden rule is to treat others the way they want to be treated. But what we invite employers and employees to think about is, I have to treat each individual the way that particular individual wants to be treated.” Mary explains, ‘Because your line that can be crossed is different from mine. It’s different than everybody else’s.”  

“I might be able to take a couple of dirty jokes but that third one may hit a chord for me. It may be inappropriate and that’s why best practice and to be in the legal confines is that we are telling our employees no inappropriate physical, verbal, written, or visual acts in the workplace will be acceptable.  

“It is zero tolerance. The best way to do it to stay within the confines of the Federal and state laws. And to make your culture as positive as possible to help you meet your business goals.”  

Next Steps 

Asure offers sexual harassment training for employers in all 50 states. We equip you with the policies, procedures, and training to prevent harassment. Our courses meet the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Effective Training Standard.” The three largest U.S. cities by population all legally require sexual harassment training, as do many other cities and states. 

Learn more about Asure’s sexual harassment training here

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, you can reach out for help 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the RAINN app (the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S.) or call their hotline, 1-800-656-4673. 

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