A cultural shift of tectonic proportions seems to be emerging right before our very eyes, and many would agree such an awakening is long overdue. The issue is sexual harassment and, in some egregious circumstances, sexual assault. Every business with employees, no matter how small or large, should absolutely have a clear and concise anti-harassment policy. Legally required? No, not for most companies. Advisable? Absolutely.

A small business owner needs to have an anti-harassment policy for several important reasons:

1. It reduces liability risk – Assuming the policy was well thought out and enforced consistently, the existence and implementation of the policy will, all else equal, reduce the business risk of liability associated with an employee’s wrongful or harassing conduct.

2. It provides a road map – When a harassment complaint is reported, it is easy to panic and make rash decisions that can make a bad situation worse. A written anti-harassment policy should provide a helpful guide for responding to these types of situations in a fair and efficient manner.

3. It can help attract and retain talent – When employees come to work for a company, they expect to be provided a work environment where, at a minimum, they can feel safe and, at best, feel appreciated, respected, and part of a team. A well-written anti-harassment policy that is emphasized in new employee orientation, periodic staff training programs, and otherwise ingrained into the company’s culture will comfort and inspire employees and, for others, it will at least meet their minimum expectations for a place in which they would be willing to work.

4. It is the right thing to do – Enough said.

I could go on and on, but at this point, this should be a rhetorical issue. If your small business has not yet formally adopted a written anti-harassment policy (NOTE: these are not complicated documents requiring 20 pages of legalese), then you should make it a top priority for the end of the year or the 1st quarter of the new year. Contact Eric Perkins with questions or for a flat fee quote to help develop an anti-harassment policy for your Virginia small business.

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