Aretha asked for it. Employers expect it. Employees deserve it.
Respect in the workplace is a constant concern, but an anti-harassment policy lets employers define behaviors and shape a corporate culture free from intimidation, discrimination, and retaliation.
What is Harassment?
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, older age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history).” The same laws that protect workers from discrimination also protect individuals from retaliation if they file a harassment charge or participate in an investigation regarding a complaint.
Why You Need an Anti-Harassment Policy
You know there are already federal and state laws in place to deal with workplace harassment. So, does your company really need to go through the trouble of creating a policy covering discriminatory and intimidating conduct? The short answer is, yes.
First, a policy against harassment describes the type of behavior expected among employees and the procedures for reporting and investigating hostile actions. A well-crafted policy sends a message that harassment will not be tolerated.
Second, unless an employer can prove it took steps to prevent and/or correct harassing behavior, it may be held legally responsible.
What to Include in a Policy
Your company’s anti-harassment policy should provide clear descriptions of laws governing undesirable conduct, as well as descriptions of what discrimination and harassment may look like in the workplace. The policy also should outline the process for reporting, investigating and addressing a harassment complaint.
Plan for regular staff education to introduce your anti-harassment policy and reporting procedures to new employees and to reinforce the information among veteran staff. Reviewing your policy with your employees underlines the company’s commitment to a respectful work environment and helps workers identify and prevent workplace harassment.
A comprehensive policy includes procedures for reporting and addressing complaints. This may involve direct reporting to a supervisor, human resources coordinator, or compliance officer, along with one or more alternative methods.
Building a Culture of Tolerance and Acceptance
The commitment of senior leaders is integral to creating and maintaining a culture that does not tolerate harassment or discrimination.
According to the EEOC, this includes:
- Encouraging employees to report potentially problematic conduct early
- Treating alleged victims, complainants, witnesses, alleged harassers, and others with respect
- Operating promptly, thoroughly, and impartially
- Imposing appropriate consequences for harassment or related misconduct, such as retaliation
As an employer, you take many steps to ensure your workplace is physically safe. You also should ensure you have policies in place that make employees feel welcome, respected, and protected.
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