Every employer should make preventing workplace harassment a top priority Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that may violate federal laws such Title VII of the Civil Rights Act; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a list of best practices for employers to use to prevent harassment in their workplaces. These include:
1. Leadership. Employers should create and maintain a workplace culture where harassment is not tolerated. This should be part of an overall strategy that promotes diversity, inclusion, and a respect for all employees, regardless of their backgrounds or differences.
2. Accountability. Employers can show they take workplace harassment issues seriously by responding appropriately to harassment and complaints. They should encourage employees to report harassing behavior, and discipline harassers promptly and consistently.
3. A written harassment policy. The policy should be communicated to employees in a clear, easy-to-understand format. Written anti-discrimination policies should use simple language and be provided to employees when they are hired, and during harassment training. The policy should be posted on the company’s internal website, in the company handbook, and in commonly used areas such as break rooms. Employers should be sure to periodically review and update the policy as well.
4. Harassment complaint systems. Effective reporting systems are critical to an organization’s anti-harassment efforts. The employer’s system should include a means by which employees can easily report their own experience of harassment or their observation of harassment of others. All complaints should be investigated by well-trained, objective, and neutral professionals. These individuals should have the authority, independence and resources to investigate and resolve complaints fairly and consistently. In addition, complaints should be documented from initial intake through resolution. Investigations should conclude with written reports documenting the investigation, findings, recommendations, any disciplinary actions imposed, and any corrective and preventive actions taken.
5. Anti-harassment training for all employees. Regular, interactive, and comprehensive programs help ensure that employees understand the rules, policies, procedures and expectations as well as the consequences of misconduct. Employers may wish to provide additional training to employees in positions of authority, such as team leaders or managers.
To learn more about preventing workplace harassment, review the EEOC’s Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment or visit the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace’s website.