By: Run ADP
Nondiscrimination laws require employers to maintain a work environment that is free from sexual and other types of harassment. Beyond compliance, promoting a harassment-free workplace makes good business sense and is critical for a productive workforce.
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces federal nondiscrimination laws, updated their website with guidelines and best practices for preventing harassment in the workplace. The EEOC outlined five core principles to help prevent and address workplace harassment. These include:
#1: Committed and engaged leadership.
Senior leaders should demonstrate a commitment to creating and maintaining a culture that does not tolerate harassment of any kind. Employers should take proactive steps to allocate resources to harassment prevention and periodically gauge the effectiveness of their prevention strategies.
#2: Consistent accountability.
If you find evidence of harassment, take prompt corrective action that is proportionate to the severity of the misconduct. Disciplinary action should be consistent with how you’ve handled similar situations in the past and must not give (or create the appearance of) undue favor to any particular employee, including senior or ‘star’ employees.
#3: Strong policies.
Regularly communicate a comprehensive anti-harassment policy to all employees. Provide examples of prohibited conduct and explain that the policy applies to employees at every level, as well as other relevant individuals, such as applicants, clients, and customers. Make clear that individuals who report misconduct, participate in investigations, or take any other action(s) protected under the law will not be subject to retaliation. Provide employees with a copy of your policy upon hire and during harassment trainings, and post it in commonly used areas of the workplace.
#4: Effective complaint procedures.
Encourage employees to report potentially problematic conduct early and provide them with multiple avenues for filing complaints. Protect the privacy of alleged victims, individuals who report harassment, witnesses, and alleged harassers to the extent possible. Whenever you are made aware that potential misconduct has occurred, start a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation. Appropriately document the complaint, use established guidelines to weigh the credibility of all relevant parties, and prepare a written report documenting the investigation, findings, recommendations, and disciplinary action imposed (if any).
#5: Regular training.
Regularly train employees at all levels of the organization and, when possible, have qualified trainers present the program live. Provide employees with opportunities to ask questions about the training, harassment policy, complaint system, and related rules and expectations. Supervisors should also receive training on how to prevent, identify, report and correct harassment.
Keep in mind, some states, such as California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts require employers to maintain written anti-harassment policies. California, Connecticut, and Maine also require employers to provide supervisors with anti-harassment training. Check your applicable law to ensure compliance with all anti-harassment requirements.
Employers should familiarize themselves with the EEOC’s recent guidance and review their existing policies, trainings, and complaint processes. The EEOC has also recently released a public portal for individuals to file complaints, access FAQs, and manage their claims.