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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a complex issue. It can have serious consequences for the individuals involved – and for your company – if not addressed properly.

Significant increase in sexual harassment claims. The increase coincides with the prevalence of the #MeToo movement, which has empowered employees to report such issues. Given the EEOC enforcement focus, employers need to take steps to address harassing behaviors before they happen.

J. J. Keller can help you understand and address workplace harassment and its resulting consequences with solutions such as employee harassment training, employment law guidance, policy templates, consulting services and more.

Topics — What You Need to Know

Sexual harassment is an increasingly pervasive issue in the workplace. It's generally defined as unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature. Unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct constitute workplace harassment when this behavior:

  • Affects an individual's employment
  • Unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or
  • Creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Everyone. Sexual harassment can have devastating consequences for the individuals involved — and for your company — if not addressed properly at all levels. Employee harassment puts the safety and security of everyone involved at risk, and it jeopardizes the well-being of your entire company.

It can be very difficult to draw a line between offensive sexual conduct and unlawful sexual harassment, and employers should not ignore offensive conduct simply because it may not break the law. Employers must investigate all claims and address harassing behaviors immediately.

Thoroughly training everyone from entry-level employees to executives is the first step in cultivating a healthy, harassment-free workplace. (Some states have even begun requiring employers to conduct regular training.) Recently, studies have shown that traditional sexual harassment training is ineffective, possibly even harmful. When presented with the usual awkward and unrealistic training videos, employees struggle to identify as either the victim or the harasser. New studies have shown that the most effective approach is to focus on bystander intervention, and the EEOC now includes this method in its guidance. Bystander training helps employees identify harassment while creating a sense of empowerment and collective responsibility to stop it.

In addition to training, reviewing and updating related policies and communicating changes should be important steps in an employer's process.

Currently, six states require some form of sexual harassment training, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, New York, and Maine, and more states have similar laws in the works. Employers in those states are required to provide comprehensive training upon hire, and several states require annual or biennial refresher training. Learn more about these state-specific requirements!

The Costs of Sexual Harassment

Workplace sexual harassment can cause a variety of problems, not only for the individuals involved, but for the entire workforce and the company as a whole.


Severe emotional distress for those harassed


Strained work relationships, loss of team unity


Increased likelihood of employee turnover


Tarnished reputation of the company


Expenses and time required to address legal issues


Fines or settlement expenses following litigation

In 2020, the EEOC:

Collected more than



through penalties and litigation for sexual harassment violations



charges of sex-based harassment allegations

Thousands more charges are filed each year with state and local agencies.

Prevention Solutions

We offer a full range of solutions to help you address workplace harassment and its resulting consequences. From training for employees and supervisors to manuals, posters, and services, our programs can help reduce your company's risk and improve your culture.

Sexual Harassment Prevention - DVD Training (014341)

Sexual Harassment Training

Teach your employees how to respond to harassment in the workplace with prevention training. Available in a variety of formats, the program addresses harassment through the perspective of a witness to inappropriate behavior – something most people can relate to. By prompting trainees to make choices in difficult situations, the program helps them recognize harassing behavior and intervene to stop it.

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Essentials of Employment Law Manual

Access employment laws quickly and easily with the Essentials of Employment Law manual. Find practical guidance on sexual harassment and more than 100 HR topics, including who's covered, requirements, FAQs, and applicable state laws.

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Sexual Harassment Policy Poster (00396)


Improve visibility to your company's sexual harassment policy. Display the posters in high traffic areas to clearly inform employees and potential applicants of important policy details.

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Consultant talking to client


Protect your company, reduce risk, and avoid costly fines and litigation with J. J. Keller® Human Resources Consulting Services. We provide audits and assessments to help you prioritize your time, on-site training to keep your employees safe and your company compliant, guidance for establishing compliant policies and procedures for your workplace, and assistance with government reporting.

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