With so many stories in the news that have heightened the awareness of sexual harassment, employers are showing concerns about whether they may be at risk of similar claims. There are three key components in having an effective anti-harassment strategy and they are detailed below.
1) Have a Strong Anti-Harassment Policy
Every employer should have a well-written, widely distributed, and well-understood anti-harassment policy. An effective policy contains the following key elements:
- a prohibition against sexual harassment and harassment based on other protected characteristics (race, age, disability, etc.)—including an explanation of what qualifies as “harassment” and the type of conduct that is prohibited by the policy;
- a statement that violations of the policy will result in discipline up to and including termination;
- a message encouraging employees to report policy violations;
- information regarding the various channels through which an employee may report any such concerns (and there should be more than one method); and
- a prohibition against retaliation for an employee’s making a complaint regarding a violation of the policy.
This policy should be included in any employee handbook and I suggest having this posted twice year through employee communication, paycheck stuffers or in a way to ensure all employees have a copy and/or have easy access to it.
2) Provide Training
This can be online learning, video based or interactive. Employee training provides the best opportunities for employers to make improvements.
Anti-harassment training should be provided to new and existing employees upon hire and on a periodic basis to remind them of the policies and the goals behind the policies.
The most effective harassment training, is conducted in person by a live trainer with the opportunity for interactive engagement with employees.
Consistent enforcement of employer anti-harassment policies has a desirable effect of both correcting harassment issues before they grow into bigger problems and giving employees confidence that the employer stands by its policy.
Enforcement encompasses: (a) an effective procedure for receiving complaints; (b) conducting effective and prompt investigations; (c) taking corrective action where needed; and (d) communicating a result to the complaining employee.
In many situations, some form of investigation is required. Complaints may be addressed with a limited review of the complaint and a discussion with the reporting employee; others may require a full-blown investigation. In every case, the employer or its HR Professional should promptly review the complaint and gather the facts necessary to understand what occurred. The level of corrective action is then determined by the severity of the offense, whether the employee has been the subject of prior complaints or discipline, and other relevant factors—which may mean verbal counseling up to termination of employment. The corrective action should be designed to put an end to the employee’s inappropriate conduct and, where the employee will remain employed, send a clear message that the offending conduct is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.
Many of the high-profile sexual harassment claims that are making the news today include allegations that the alleged harassment (or worse) had been occurring for years without being addressed. In many cases, it is clear that the complaining employees did not report the misconduct. Employers that have solid anti-harassment policies, provide good, periodic training on anti-harassment issues, and enforce their policies, are more likely to have employees who feel comfortable raising their concerns in a timely manner so that the employer can address them.
Be pro-active in your organization and set up a harassment strategy that works for you. If you would like additional information, HR On-Call can assist with your strategy. Contact Susan Arnold at 515-401-2233.
A little more about us:
Susan Arnold, owner and lead HR Consultant at HR On-Call, LLC. Susan has 20+ years of HR experience and provides a HR presence to business organizations without the overhead expense of a full-time employee. Susan helps business owners improve employer/employee relationships and allows them to focus on their business while resting assured that they are in full compliance with state and federal law.
Areas of expertise:
- Reduce Employer Risk and Liability
- Customized Employee Handbooks
- Performance Reviews
- Improve Employee/Employer Relationships
- Background Checks
- Personality Assessments
- Guaranteed EEO Compliance
- Employee Retention
- Recruitment / Hiring
- Employee Discipline/Discharge
Susan is passionate about her customers and listens to their needs. If you are interested in any of the details above or would like more information about her services, please contact Susan!