Skip to main content

How Real Estate Agencies Can Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Real estate agents, however, face unique risks, such as being alone with a prospective buyer in a vacant house. In addition, agents could suffer sexual harassment and discrimination from their coworkers in the office. Real estate agencies have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

Meet Staff Training Requirements

In California, Senate Bill No. 1343 requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment training and education to staff members. This bill changed the existing state law from 50 employees to 5, as well as extended the training requirement to include regular staff members in addition to supervisory employees. 

Under this rule, real estate agencies with five or more employees must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors and one hour to nonsupervisory employees within six months of being hired and every two years thereafter. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has created anti-sexual harassment training courses to be used by employers. 

Real estate agencies must provide proper training and educational materials on sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and discrimination based on sex or gender to all staff members in accordance with state law. They must also provide employees with a poster or fact sheet regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.

Describe Prohibited Behaviors

The sexual harassment educational and training materials at a real estate agency or brokerage firm should clearly describe and list prohibited behaviors. Workplace sexual harassment can take many forms, including but not limited to physical touching, inappropriate remarks or requests, employment-related offers in exchange for sexual favors, verbal harassment, and an office environment that is abusive, offensive or threatening. The association’s policy should make it clear that sexual harassment in any form is not tolerated.

Provide Sexual Harassment Reporting Instructions

The workplace policy should also provide multiple ways for victims to file complaints regarding sexual harassment, abuse or discrimination. These may include reporting harassment to a supervisor or the human resources department for employees, or reporting to a committee chair director or elected officer for association members. 

The reporting policy should clearly explain who will be involved in the investigation and the steps that will be used to achieve a resolution. It should also address the issue of retaliation; the policy should assure victims that they will not face any negative consequences for reporting sexual harassment in good faith. The real estate agency should periodically review its sexual harassment policies and create new ones when needed.

Cultivate a Safe and Inclusive Workplace Culture

An agency or association should take steps to cultivate a safe, positive and inclusive work environment. The overall workplace culture should be one of mutual respect, where it is clear that certain actions and behaviors will not be tolerated. The real estate company should make a commitment to promoting inclusion, equality and diversity. Leadership should set the example for agents and employees. 

Support Victims

If an issue arises or an incident of sexual harassment is reported in the workplace, it should be dealt with promptly, respectfully and with as much confidentiality as possible by superiors. The real estate agency should take immediate steps to support and protect the victim, such as suspending the alleged perpetrator until an investigation can be done and consulting with the company’s legal team or a San Francisco real estate agent sexual harassment lawyer. The agency should have a zero-tolerance policy that empowers employees and makes them feel able to report incidents.

Be Proactive

Preventing sexual harassment should be a top priority for real estate agencies and realtor associations today. By being proactive about sexual harassment prevention, a company can safeguard its workers, reduce employee turnover, and protect itself from reputational damage and legal liability. Employees, association members and executive leaders should all follow a strong sexual harassment prevention program.

Manly, Stewart & Finaldi is regarded as America's leading law firm for sexual abuse cases. As a firm that exclusively handles sexual abuse cases, our California law firm offers experienced representation to obtain justice for sexual abuse survivors, harassment, and discrimination.

Learn more about Manly, Stewart & Finaldi.