In the wake of allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., and more than a few politicians, there has been heightened social awareness over sexual misconduct. Even though female-dominated and gender-balanced fields are less tolerant of harassment than male-dominated fields, it is important to remember that sexual harassment can happen in any workplace - including your yoga studio. Just last week, Bikram Choudhury Yoga Inc, filed for U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy, after $16.7 million in legal judgments and numerous lawsuits amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The lawsuits and allegations have hurt the Bikram brand, its reputation, and its bottomline.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and, typically, the burden of preventing sexual harassment rests on the yoga studio. Yoga studios are responsible for providing their employees with an environment that does not discriminate and is free of harassment. Studios with 15 or more employees are, therefore, required by law to take steps to prevent and deal with harassment. If your yoga studio has not taken all reasonable steps to prevent and deal with harassment in your studio, you may be liable for any harassment which does occur, even if you are unaware that the harassment is/was happening. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination law, here are some things you should know about sexual harassment:
The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man.
The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the yoga studio, another yoga instructor, an independent contractor, or even a yoga student.
The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
Steps to Prevent Sexual Harassment
Yoga studios can implement a number of steps to reduce the risk of sexual harassment in your studio.
Adopt a clear sexual harassment policy that:
defines sexual harassment;
states in no uncertain terms that your studio will not tolerate sexual harassment;
states that you will discipline (including dismissing) any harassers;
establishes a clear procedure for filing sexual harassment complaints;
states that your studio will investigate fully any complaint that you receive; and,
states that you will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains about sexual harassment.
Train employees. At least once a year, conduct training sessions for employees. These sessions should teach employees what sexual harassment is, explain that employees have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment, review your complaint procedure, and encourage employees to use it.
Train supervisors and managers. Again, at least once a year, conduct training sessions for supervisors and managers that are separate from the employee sessions. The sessions should educate the managers and supervisors about sexual harassment and explain how to deal with complaints.
Train everyone on Workplace Civility and Assertiveness. Workplace Civility Training focuses on promoting respect and civility generally as means of reducing bullying or conflict in your studio and Assertiveness Training focuses on how to respond to inappropriate behaviors. Both of these trainings are the most effective when it comes to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
As far as training resources, the EEOC provides a wide variety of training programs to help employers understand, prevent, and correct discrimination in the workplace. And, to learn more about the options Yogalese can provide to help you develop or revise your sexual harassment policies, implement training, and/or deal with employee complaints, schedule a free consultation.