Sexual Harassment is Still a Problem

I was asked by a business owner the other day what should be done about a sexual harassment problem one of the sales people had happen to her on a sales call.

The sales person was calling on local businesses as were her job duties in order to secure business from them. I will not say what type of business nor who this is as I have promised confidentiality.

The sales call was a follow-up to a previous call, and the business owner had agreed to the product being offered. The business owner (male) then offered to take the sales person (female) to lunch and offered a ride. The ride was accepted and when they were both in the car the sexual harassment occurred. The sales person did not know how to respond, and just ended up stating that she had to get back to her office.

The sales person kept the harassment to herself for several days before she told her supervisor about the incident. The supervisor then informed the owner of the business about this incident, and the owner then discussed the incident with the sales person. The decision was made to not do business with the offending person and their business.

From a business perspective there are a number of training issues that need to be focused on here. The fact that we have women sales people calling on men in business is not the issue here. The fact that women are sent out ill prepared for sexual harassment encounters is the issue here. The sales person should have been properly trained on how to handle this situation. At a minimum she should have been trained to:

1. Recognize that her company does not expect her to tolerate sexual harassment on any level for business or otherwise.

2. Always keep distance between herself and the client she is meeting with.

3. It is permissible to shake hands when meeting someone for business purposes. It is not permissible for anyone to hug you without your permission.

4. Inappropriate remarks should not be met with laughter as that signals approval. Things will only degrade from there.

5. Never get into a client’s vehicle for any reason. Meet clients at restaurants or in their offices. Leave the door of the office open if possible.

6. As soon as any type of harassment occurs depart the area and get out of the situation.

7. Immediately report your situation to your supervisor. Call via cell if you have one.

8. Make a Memorandum for Record (MFR) of the incident using times, dates, places, names, and a detailed account of the situation.

9. Supervisors should take any report of sexual harassment seriously and call the offending party. Normally the offender will deny the allegation. The supervisors call puts the offender on notice that you will not tolerate sexual harassment of  your employees and there will be no further business done with that individual.

10. The supervisor needs to also make an MFR of the call to the offender. A copy of the incident should be kept by Human Resources.

If the harassment persists then legal action can be pursued. Ex employees of a company are usually very good sources of information about their past acquaintance with the past firm and the people in the firm. A phone call or email to them will yield surprising amount of information about past experiences. See if they would give you a deposition that can be used in any type of lawsuit you will be pursuing.

Make sure all of your employees know and understand that sexual harassment is not their fault, they do not do anything wrong, nor should they have to tolerate it for any reason. Apply these 10 tips and ensure that your sales force is prepared and empowered.

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