Ebony Tucker, advocacy director at the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and Andria Ryan, partner at Fisher Phillips, offer the following advice to help hoteliers guard against and respond appropriately to reports of sexual harassment.
Have a policy.
“If you don’t have one already, get one. Gather a committee and talk about what your policy should be, how to direct and encourage employees to report problems, and then test it to make sure that it makes sense and is easy to access and use,” Ryan says. “And, if you already have a policy, make sure that it is current and meaningful. Make sure that it includes modern examples of inappropriate behavior, including text messages or social media comments.”
Train your employees.
“When I conduct trainings, I give supervisors a guide of possible scenarios and why these behaviors are unacceptable. I literally say, ‘Don’t tell a racial, sexual, or religious joke. Ever. Even a funny one.’ And all of these rules should be explicitly stated in your official policy,” Ryan says.
Take it seriously.
“When people report harassment, make sure they are heard and their concerns are addressed,” Tucker states.
Offer support—without pressure.
“Finding what would make the victim most comfortable and addressing their immediate needs is most important,” Tucker says. “Then, follow your employee’s lead. Response to victims is not about writing a zero-tolerance policy that is never acted on—it’s about listening to and respecting the victims who report, and actually acting in ways that make that person feel supported while considering the safety of the rest of your team.”
“Get creative if you have to. Not everyone responds to a note in their disciplinary file, but most people will care about a bonus being compromised. Review all of your options when it comes to consequences to find one that will make an impact,” Ryan says.
Read about how hotels can create a culture to combat sexual harassment here.