A jury awarded a record-breaking amount of damages to a woman who had sued her former employer, Aaron's Inc., for sexual harassment. The sexual harassment was egregious and shows that even if an employer thinks they have done everything right in training their employees on preventing sexual harassment, many employees may have still not fully understood the message.
A recent blog post on Forbes Woman by Victoria Pynchon discusses what employers can do to further make sure that their employees are not subjected to a hostile work environment. Pynchon says that many employers think they have done all that was required of them by requiring training on sexual harassment and complaint processes, and keeping track of who received training. Employers need to do more to ensure a safe and comfortable work environment.
Pynchon writes that employers can work on improving the communication skills of all employees and communication between men and women. People want to get along in the office. No one wants to feel like they have to tip-toe around each other, but no one also wants to be made uncomfortable or worse feel harassed. Problems can start small and grow over time, so employers should encourage open communication in the office in order to foster an environment where feelings can be expressed before problems grow.
Sexual harassment can occur between all genders and gender identities, but Pynchon's post specifically dealt with sexual harassment by male employees against female employees. More open communication where women are more assertive in saying "no" or expressing that they are made uncomfortable by certain behavior by male colleagues could help stop sexual harassment immediately. Men also need to be taught to hear and respect their female colleagues when they express that they feel uncomfortable and to stop that behavior.