We’re all aware of the recent sexual harassment allegations in real estate and beyond, most recently unfolding just this past weekend. It’s awful that this is suspected of happening at all in our industry, especially after #MeToo and countless other opportunities to eliminate sexual harassment. It’s more than time for all of us to step up and do better.
Just last month, I wrote about eliminating sexual harassment from real estate workplaces. This is not a topic that’s going away, and it’s relevant to every last one of us. If you’re concerned about this problem in your own real estate brokerage or your MLS or Association — and you should be — then here’s what you can do to evaluate where you are and make changes for the better.
1. Consider your own contributions as a manager or executive
We’ve all heard the phrase “the buck stops here.” Where does that buck stop at your organization? And what kind of behavior is being modeled by the people at the top? Is there tolerance for a certain level of inappropriateness that exists? Are you as sensitized as you need to be? Are you trained on sexual harassment and hostile work environment prevention?
While most states do not mandate sexual harassment prevention training, the state of California and 6 others mandate sexual harassment training for staff and managers, and it details what can be considered inappropriate in a court of law. If you’ve never taken a training like this, it’s a good idea to find one. In states that mandate sexual harassment training, like California, these trainings are often offered for free. If you live in a non-mandate state, here are some affordable options for training you can use:
2. Require training for staff and volunteer leaders
If you have board and committee members interfacing with your association and MLS staff, then you owe it to your employees to ensure your volunteer leadership is properly trained to avoid sexual harassment. Staff also needs to be trained to ensure a respectful workplace.
Even in states with required sexual harassment prevention training, independent contractors, consultants, vendors, and volunteers might be exempt. So make sure you know what’s legally required of you, and then request/mandate your Board of Directors and Committee chairs to complete online harassment prevention training as part of their orientation along with your employees.
3. Assess your reporting structure
Training staff and liaisons to identify and eliminate harassment in their own behaviors is a good foundation, but what happens if someone messes up? The tricky thing here is that both the accused and the accuser have rights.
How easy is it for someone to report harassment at your brokerage, MLS, or Association? Is the reporting process transparent? In other words, is it easy for someone reporting harassment to understand where their complaint is in the process and the ways issues are rectified?
It’s wise to have this information documented in your employee handbook and outlined for independent contractors.
4. Create a no-tolerance culture for harassment
If you don’t already have a policy for how to manage employees, board members, independent contractors, and others who are accused of harassment, it’s time to implement one.
If you can confirm that someone involved with your company is in fact harassing someone else, whether that’s another staff member or an employee, then you should take immediate steps to deal with that behavior and make your stance clear to everyone at your company.
Do you have more questions about how to create a culture of accountability and safety at your company? I discuss these topics every day and would love to add you to the conversation! Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.