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Can I avoid a sexual harassment claim at my company?

As sexual harassment cases seemingly become more frequent, business owners have a reason to be worried. Sexual harassment cases can be bad for employee morale and for business.

For business owners who are concerned someone on their management staff could exhibit behavior that leads to a #MeToo moment, there are steps to take. Here are three things to do to create a work environment that is not susceptible to sexual harassment.

1. Hold partners accountable

One way businesses can reduce sexual harassment claims and weed out bad actors is by dedicating to working only with the best vendors. It creates a supply chain of trustworthy companies, which ripples into your own company's culture.

Some consumers are pushing companies to do this. As an example, the Coalition of Immolake workers persuaded consumers to only buy from food sellers who are certified "Fair Food Farms," and the workers pressured companies to "sign legally-binding agreements promising to only source tomatoes from Fair Food Farms with no outstanding wage theft, trafficking, sexual harassment, or other issues."

It led to several disciplinary actions and firings, and recent food seasons have shown more companies with zero harassment instances. Companies can hold their vendors to that standard without consumer pressure, which sends a message to their own employee base.

2. Promote more women

Research has shown that having more women in management positions reduces sexual harassment at work. Even though the management team may not be the perpetrators, incidents can sometimes be taken less seriously by those managers, which leads to a sexual harassment lawsuit from an employee. Having more equity in management can affect workplace culture positively.

3. Take accusations seriously

If an employee does make a complaint, don't brush it off - even if it doesn't sound that serious to you. An incident that seems innocuous to you could be painful for the employee and make the workplace a hostile environment, which could lead to a lawsuit. Investigate it and get human resources involved. It sends a message to the team that you take accusations seriously, and it can impact the culture in a big way to avoid future issues.

While there is no way to completely prevent your employees from committing sexual harassment, these three items can make a big difference in creating a workplace where harassment isn't tolerated.

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