Hands-Off Policy

Watch your step

To stay out of trouble, begin by watching your own behavior. Since a disgruntled employee may charge you with sexual harassment just to get even, make sure the charge would be completely groundless.

Don't touch your employees without permission.

Don't demean people, especially with reference to their gender.

Don't treat employees as potential dates.

Don't get romantically involved with someone you supervise. "Nothing good can come of it," Gibson says. "If anything bad happens to the relationship, it's an automatic cause of action. The employee will say `I only did it to get promoted.' "

Don't make suggestive comments in the workplace.

Watch your language; cursing and bawdy humor is distressing enough to some people to count as sexual harassment.

Compliment without innuendo. It's fine to say a new outfit looks nice, but don't say it with a wink or a comment on how well the pants fit.

As much as possible, keep your office door open if your employee is a member of the opposite sex (or the same sex if one of you is homosexual). If you expect trouble, bring a witness who is the same sex as the employee.

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This article was originally published in the July 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hands-Off Policy.

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