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Stopping sexual harassment with a culture of inclusion

While women have made tremendous strides in every professional field, there is still much to be done to bring workplace sexual harassment and discrimination to an end. Unfortunately, there is no type of workplace in Michigan or elsewhere that is immune to this type of bias. One misconception that some may have about sexual harassment, gender bias and employment law is that these types of concerns only come up in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as manufacturing or engineering.

In reality, bias and harassment can affect anyone in any workplace, even in white-collar fields such as advertising. A recent study focused on the advertising industry found that more than 50 percent of women working in this profession have experienced some form of sexual harassment. As Michigan's economy continues to evolve and focus more on technology and white-collar fields, many young women and men in the state will likely be working in a similar field at some point.

What are some of the steps employers can take to cultivate an environment of respect and professionalism? One of the primary ways is ensuring employees who have been victimized can come forward and share their concerns in a non-threatening environment. In addition, making all employees aware of not only anti-harassment policies, but also the avenue for communicating concerns, can go a long way towards creating an inclusive office culture. In the same vein, it's extremely helpful for management and leadership to work by example and reflect inclusion in their own work.

Another step management can take is to voluntarily - and frequently - review salaries for parities in pay and benefits. When workers of all races and genders are paid equally, this can help prevent turnover as well as demonstrate invaluable fairness. In addition, hiring managers can look over their criteria for bringing someone new on board in order to ensure such criteria is clear, fair and not affected by even unconscious biases.

Promoting a respectful workplace culture is just one of many things employers can do to make sure their workers can get the job done in a professional environment. When individual employees ignore these rules and harass others, there can be serious repercussions. A Michigan employment law attorney might be able to help someone affected by gender-based workplace harassment or discrimination.

Source: Advertising Age, "Ten tips for fighting gender bias and sexual harassment in the workplace," Kerry Beutel, Feb. 2, 2017

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