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Your Anti-harassment Policy, Part 1: What to Include

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As you know, businesses must take steps to protect themselves against discrimination lawsuits. Well, many of the same issues that factor in those suits – unfair treatment due to an employee’s ethnic origin, gender, physical abilities and so on – also form the basis of workplace harassment charges. Your company’s anti-harassment policy must be as clear, comprehensive and logical as possible so that employers and employees alike know how to avoid stepping into trouble and creating an unhealthy work atmosphere.

What does “harassment” mean? You don’t have to have an attempted assault during working hours to have a case of harassment on your hands. The term applies to any kind of hostility, abuse or intimidation based on an employee’s ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual preference, military or marital status, or other characteristic covered by anti-discrimination laws. You must clearly state a policy of zero tolerance for any such harassment in your workplace.

You must also prohibit incidences of sexual harassment. This type of harassment may require its own specific definition so that employees understand exactly how sensitive the issue can be. In addition to such obvious situations as requests for sex, you must prohibit any sexual comments, jokes, gestures or any other such communications that might make a worker feel pressured, uncomfortable, intimidated, offended or insulted. In other words, sexual content of any sort does not belong in your workplace.

But you can’t assume your employees will know what’s right or wrong – you must spell out these off-limits actions precisely in your policy and take steps to educate them on a regular basis. Post this policy in common areas and make sure everyone reads and agrees to the policy at hiring.

The Texas Workforce Commission suggests that your policy should:

  • define harassment in its various forms;
  • make it clear that no form of harassment will be tolerated;
  • notify employees of how to report harassment;
  • stress that it is not only a right, but a duty, to report harassment to responsible management
  • warn employees of the disciplinary actions that could result from violations of the policy; and
  • provide a framework for investigation and remedial actions in harassment situation

In a future post we’ll discuss what to do when an employee reports a violation of your anti-harassment policy. For help with attestation signature documents and other anti-harassment policy help, feel free to contact us.

Written by Dan Hettrich

July 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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