Time Magazine has revealed its 2017 person of the year as “The Silence Breakers,” all the men and women who have spoken out against sexual harassment. The decision came as no surprise to many. In recent months, the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter has made people aware of just how prevalent stories of sexual harassment are, while a series of high profile cases has proven that there are consequences for misconduct.

    • Harvey Weinstein was fired from his own film studio, the Weinstein Company, after multiple reports of sexually predatory behavior and alleged pay-offs to cover up the misconduct. Vanity Fair has a list of the accusations, which at this time includes 63 actresses and film industry figures.
    • Matt Lauer, the host NBC’s Today show, was fired after multiple women accused him of inappropriate behavior. The Washington Post reports that Nielsen ratings indicate the show experienced an increase in viewers after the decision.
    • Several of Kevin Spacey’s “House of Cards” coworkers accused him of sexual misconduct. The Los Angeles Times reports that Spacey will be written out of the sixth season of the show as a result.
    • Al Franken resigned from the Senate after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

Employers must be proactive.

Although the biggest headlines involve well-known celebrities and politicians, any company can be affected by sexual harassment. As a result, the company may face low morale, loss of talent, reputational damage and lawsuits. To prevent this, employers must take proactive steps.

    • Create a written policy that defines and prohibits sexual harassment. The policy should also include clear guidelines for reporting sexual harassment.
    • Foster a culture that is respectful, where employees feel comfortable raising concerns, and where lewd jokes and sexual comments are not considered acceptable for the workplace.
    • Take sexual harassment allegations seriously. Silencing accusers by brushing them off – or by paying them off – can lead to bigger problems down the road.
    • Never retaliate against accusers. This will not solve the problem. Furthermore, a company that does so may face a lawsuit.
    • Discipline individuals who are determined to have engaged in sexual harassment. The consequences should be prompt, appropriate for the degree of misconduct and consistent with written policy.
    • Conduct an anonymous survey to determine whether sexual harassment is currently an issue.
    • Provide sexual harassment training. Multiple training options are available, from videos to webinars to in-person courses.

There’s one more thing you can do to protect your company from the next scandal. With the right software solution, employees can report ethical violations anonymously, so they feel safe speaking up. Learn more about T-Ethics.