Although commonly associated with unwanted sexual advances, workplace harassment encompasses much more, including “race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age...disability or genetic information.”
Not only do harassment claims and lawsuits tarnish your reputation, the cost can get really steep with lawyer fees and hefty settlements.
For instance, a female millwright at a Chrysler plant was awarded $21 million by a jury in 1999 for being harassed with explicit photos and name-calling. In a similar case, Mitsubishi was ordered to pay $34 million to HUNDREDS of employees.
To eliminate bad behavior, save your company money and provide a workplace conducive to efficiency, here are five helpful ways to maintain a harassment-free atmosphere.
1) Write/Revise Your Harassment Policy
Having a full-fledged harassment policy written and clearly posted in the workplace is where you should start. If you have trouble writing or updating your policy, seek legal advice to ensure compliance with state, local and federal regulations.
2) Give Employees a Clear Plan of Action
Often times, it's difficult for someone to seek help, especially in the workplace where they would likely prefer to not make light of it. However, the allowance of harassment hidden in secrecy could cause more harm than good in the longterm.
More importantly, establish two points of contact in case of compliant, preferably a supervisor and an HR representative. Having multiple people as references gives employees a way to address the issue even if the aggressor is a supervisor.
3) Establish a Company of Transparency
Along with creating a company culture that breeds growth and productivity, keeping the facility transparent is just as crucial to interpersonal relationships. Having an open-door policy for complaints or suggestions is a good technique to improve employee comfort.
Work with your HR department to draft a plan that addresses your company’s needs and areas of improvement. This strategy can create more of a collaborative workplace, rather than one based on individual performance.
4) Conduct Training Every 18 Months
In the State of California, companies with more than 49 employees must conduct Harassment Avoidance Training every 1.5 years and within 6 months of promoting someone to a supervisor.
Training must include sexual harassment, hostile work environments, retaliation, bullying and quid pro quo instances (“if you do this, I’ll do this for you” situations).
5) Address Issues Swiftly & with Empathy
Take every concern seriously. It’s important to empathize with your employees should they come to you with a concern. No matter the situation’s outcome, acting quickly allows the record to show your proactivity in attempt to rectify the problem.
If you care about your employees and your company’s reputation, you will do everything in your power to correct an issue that compromises the safety and future of your team and firm.