How Can Employers Avoid Illegal Harassment in the Work Place?
Illegal harassment can be a difficult situation for any employer to manage. Even exercising particular care during the hiring process may not be sufficient to filter our every employee who is capable of harassment. This is one situation where an ounce of prevention may truly be worth pound of cure. Below are some things employers can do to help increase employee awareness of illegal harassment and deter harassment-related problems in the workplace.
Reliable leadership – A dedicated and ethical management team can help employees feel confident about coming forward with harassment issues, especially if employees believe that the problem will be properly handled once reported.
Managerial knowledge – Managers should be educated about what constitutes illegal harassment (for example, sexual harassment or harassment based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age, disability, or pregnancy). The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) disseminates a great deal of information about illegal harassment, including a technical guide and anti-harassment policies that can be used by employers as a guideline.
Strong anti-harassment policy –Any employer who does not already have a clear policy against sexual harassment in an employee handbook or policy manual should create one immediately. An anti-harassment policy should include the following, at a minimum:
- Definition of illegal harassment, both sexual and non-sexual discriminatory
- Clear statement that the employer will not tolerate illegal harassment of any kind
- Clear outline of the discipline policy for those committing illegal harassment
- Step-by-step procedure for employees to report and file harassment claims
An anti-harassment policy that is readily accessible to employees helps insure that employees know the company stance on illegal harassment and will be able to rely on established protocol for dealing with harassment if it occurs.
Harassment Training – A harassment policy alone may not be enough to make a real impact on employees. Company-wide training and seminars help to build a reliable support system for employees who may be the target of illegal harassment.
Take reports seriously – Policy and training may both be wasted efforts if managers fail to respond to harassment reports appropriately. When managers do not take harassment complaints seriously, employees may avoid reporting for fear of being perceived as troublemakers or even being fired. By getting serious about dealing with illegal harassment, employers can increase the odds that employees will come forward about illegal harassment and decrease the odds that harassment will become a recurring issue in the workplace.
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