Protect and Prevent Harassment
How do organizations become proactive to stop and prevent, not only sexual harassment but, all forms of harassment and discrimination? Following these six steps is essential to protect the organization and employees from a pervasive workplace problem.
- Top Management Support
It begins with top management. Leaders of an organization must view all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, as a serious legal and business problem. A problem that interferes with the business and employee productivity. By adopting a serious attitude, top management influences the way people throughout the organization approach the problem.
- A Written Posted and Communicated Policy Statement
A verbal policy is the same thing as no policy at all and even if the policy is written, it serves little purpose unless it is visible and communicated throughout the organization. This communication is often part of the training the organization provides.
- Complaint Procedures
Establishing procedures for receiving and handling complaints is very important. Effective procedures allow organizations the opportunity to handle problems themselves before complaints are made to an external agency or a lawyer. The procedures should be designed and communicated so that employees realize that complaints and questions are welcome and not discouraged.
- Training and Education for Managers and Employees
The purpose of educational programs for all employee of an organization is to enable employees to distinguish between behavior that is appropriate, inappropriate and illegal. In addition, the training provides employees with a clear understanding of their rights and responsibilities and the organization’s policy. Training makes it impossible for an employee to say that they did not know what harassment is or their responsibilities in stopping and preventing it.
- Swift Response/Timetable for Handling Complaints
An important way for an organization to stop and prevent harassment, as well as limit its liability, is to take prompt, remedial action on complaints. The first step in the process is a thorough investigation to gather information about the incident, the work environment, the alleged harasser and the victim. If it is determined that some form of harassment occurred, the offending employee must be disciplined. Is that a verbal warning, is it suspension without pay or is it the offending employee loses their job? The level of discipline should match the level of the offense. A verbal warning is not appropriate for someone who offered or implied a job benefit to the victim if he/she engaged in sexual behavior.
- Follow Up and Follow through
Follow up and follow through means several things. It means following up with the victim to make sure he/she is not retaliated against either by the harasser or anyone else in the workgroup. It means following up with the harasser to determine that all such behavior has stopped. It also means repeated training on a regular basis, so everyone is reminded of their responsibilities and any updates to the policy or the law.
It is important to have all six steps in place. It is equally important that all six steps are consistently and effectively implemented.