Workplace harassment is conduct, actions, behavior and statements made to or about an individual or a group of individuals, which creates an uncomfortable work environment. In order to have a safe and supportive workplace where employees thrive and ultimately contribute to a company’s success, preventive steps must be taken to stop harassment of all kinds! If you’re an employer subject to federal anti-discrimination laws, you have a legal obligation to provide a work environment that is free from intimidation, insult, or ridicule based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.
Here are a few tips you can use:
- Your company’s position on workplace harassment should be clear: The company and its management must lead by example and ensure there is no place for harassment at any level. They can appoint harassment advisors, include company policy on employee handbooks and training sessions, put in company policies that HR can implement, update as necessary and track throughout the company, and provide employee assistance program (EAP). Many EAP programs offer you a choice of talking to someone for assistance by phone or in person.
- Proper procedure is followed for reporting, investigating and resolving harassment complaints: The concerned employee must have a detailed journal of the incident as well as a compiled list of names of any witnesses for the report and investigation. They would first address the issue with his supervisor, then his manager. If he/she is uncomfortable discussing the incident with their supervisor or manager, the employee should then visit your company’s employee relations specialist or another human resources specialist.
- Act immediately to investigate complaints of harassment: If something untoward has happened then it must be investigated by an employee relations specialist from HR. Several litigated harassment claims include allegations that the employer sat on a complaint without fully investigating it. There must be full cooperation from the employee, the alleged harasser and any witnesses to the alleged harassment. One way to ensure investigations are followed through is by increasing accountability for mid-level managers or front-line supervisors, (many of whom are in a unique position to see and stop the harassment). Create metrics that evaluate a supervisory employee’s response to workplace harassment.
- Address Harassment Behavior Immediately: Your employees won’t always settle their differences among themselves and problems can start to fester. Make sure HR and management have an open door policy so they can hear out complaints. You can also use available technologies like polling features and surveys that aggregate questions and answers. Collecting this data provides visibility into common employee questions and concerns that enable early intervention to de-escalate problems before they grow larger. All complaints should be investigated seriously even if they turn out to be simple misunderstandings.
- Provide avenues to the employee to recover from the harassment: Allow the concerned employee some time off from work like a paid vacation. Sometimes more substantial care than you can provide by yourself needs to be provided. A doctor or a mental health professional like a psychiatrist can be consulted to provide therapy.
There are proper methods to conduct internal harassment investigations which you can find out more about here.