Sexual harassment should be an issue of concern to all fire service & EMS managers. It is extremely important for the emergency service organization to implement and disseminate a clear no tolerance policy for sexual harassment and inform all members of the available avenues of internal complaint. The organization must also prepare itself to promptly investigate all sexual harassment allegations and take appropriate remedial action to ensure harassment stops and discipline is administered.
Sexual harassment is discriminatory behavior prohibited under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and many state and local laws. Fire service leaders, therefore, must incorporate a plan of action that includes comprehensive training to help personnel understand the importance and implications of sexual harassment. Inaction and "pseudo-reaction" (a halfhearted or insincere response) are not choices for dealing with this contemporary problem, which is not going to go away and which calls for immediately replacing some long-held myths with substantial and reliable information. An organization`s underlying philosophy should reflect a commitment to making the workplace a safe and non-disruptive environment free of any form of discrimination or harassment. Harassment attitudes and behaviors must be explored, and training and effective policies to control future occurrences must be implemented. Undoubtedly, insecurity may surface when a supervisor ignorant of prevailing social standards is forced to deal with issues relating to sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment & abuse is not solely dedicated to women either. It is important for agencies to protect employees, volunteers and others associated with the organization from wrongdoing. Prevention of sexual abuse or misconduct is especially important where organizations are engaged in activities with minors. Organizations that supervise or work with minors are under a legal and moral obligation to protect against sexual abuse and misconduct.
To help your organization aid in the prevention of proper handling of sexual harassment & abuse, please utilize the following resources:
1) SAMPLE Sexual Abuse and Misconduct Prevention Policy
2) Sexual Harassment-Employee Practice Exposure Risk Communique
3) "Sexual Abuse & Misconduct: Protection of Minors/Youth" Risk Communique