A jury award last week to a former female employee of Aaron's Inc. who sued the company for sexual harassment was possibly record-breaking and sent a message to employers that they need to do more to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Aaron's Inc. argued that they did everything required of them to prevent sexual harassment through creating anti-harassment policies and training their employees about these policies. They also said they in no way "condoned" the behavior of the former manager, but they were still held liable for the behavior.
A recent blog post by Victoria Pynchon published in Forbes Woman discusses this case and how employers need to do more to ensure that their company is a workplace free of sexual harassment and that it does not become a hostile work environment. Pynchon's post specifically deals with harassment between men and women, even though it can occur between all genders and gender identities.
Pynchon writes that employers need to create workplaces not just where sexual harassment is prohibited, but where open communication is encouraged. Women should be trained to be better at speaking up and saying "no" to stop behavior by male colleagues that makes them uncomfortable. Pynchon says problems can occur when women are hesitant to speak up and men are slow to get the message that certain behavior is unwanted.
Training women to be more assertive and men to be better at listening to their female colleagues and stopping behavior that makes their colleagues uncomfortable could help prevent sexual harassment and help protect a company from sexual harassment lawsuits.