By Don Wallis
Top management must initiate and enforce company regulations that protect all their employees.
TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year Award for 2017 acknowledges the efforts of the “Me Too” movement to expose and reduce sexual harassment in the workplace.
Most companies have either formal or informal rules that address this issue. The goal of every well run business is, or should be, to create a work environment where all employees can benefit personally by contributing to the success of the company without feeling threatened.
This is true in the construction industry.
Amy Gallo, in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, How to Talk About Sexual Harassment with Your Co-workers, acknowledges that business managers are uncertain about how best to address this issue.
I asked Chasie Wallis, an industrial psychologist with a major construction company, what procedures construction companies should implement to protect their employees from sexual harassment in the workplace.
According to Ms. Wallis, we can expect a raft of new regulations that require businesses to implement stricter and more comprehensive written procedures that do more than just state that sexual harassment is not tolerated.
Company specific employee training, including management training, will be required. Procedures that allow employees who are being harassed to file complaints without fear of retribution must be implemented. The penalties for harassing other employees must be significant and they must be enforced.
The effectiveness of a company’s program is determined by its top leadership. Employees only take company procedures seriously if the company president makes it absolutely clear he, or she, supports these rules.
“Creating a company culture that discourages sexual harassment is essential; training videos are not enough… Men, as well as women, must stand up against sexual harassment.”
“Company policies must protect both those who are being harassed and those who are being accused of harassment.”
Ms. Wallis and Ms. Gallo emphasize that our country is in the beginning stages of a significant cultural shift. Men are concerned that seemingly innocent discourse may be perceived as offensive. Women are concerned they are being overly sensitive to casual remarks made by male co-workers.
This is why company training that includes candid, respectful discussions about proper behavior is essential for creating workplaces where sexual harassment is not an issue.
How to Talk About Sexual Harassment with Your Co-workers, Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, Dec. 11, 2017.
Don Wallis has more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction, and land development. He also has a law degree and currently teaches Environmental Law at Santa Fe Community College.
Opinion—Sexual Harassment in the Construction Industry
By Don Wallis