Organizations everywhere have recognized the importance of eliminating workplace harassment. From decreased productivity to higher turnover, the impact of workplace harassment can be monumental and even shake an entire business to its core. It is critical that your organization take the right steps to eliminate workplace harassment. Let’s take a look at three common mistakes organizations make in their harassment prevention initiatives.
1. Inadequate Training
If harassment prevention training is lackluster or not administered properly, its impact will be minuscule. Employees should receive regular, updated training to stay informed of harassment laws and policies in their jurisdiction and in their particular workplace. In many jurisdictions, annual training is required, but even where it is not, it is critical that your organization be proactive and continue to train its employees in order to realize the full benefits.
A great harassment-prevention training should feature interactive quizzes and real-life scenarios to reinforce the knowledge provided and ensure employees remember their training. What’s more, some state and local laws specifically require interactive training for employees—often annually. The best training explains the organization’s specific policies so that employees are empowered to act on what they have learned when necessary.
2. Poorly Written Policies
Speaking of policies, employers should review theirs regularly to make sure they comply with current legal requirements. A well-crafted policy should include a clear outline of steps to be taken if harassment occurs, from reporting to investigation, and the potential consequences of violations. Poorly written policies with gray areas and loopholes are much harder to enforce and increase the chances of an improper response.
One common drafting mistake made by organizations is labeling their policy a “sexual harassment” policy. While sexual harassment is a massive problem, your policy should take a broader view and address all kinds of harassment, whether based on sex, race, age, gender, or any other characteristic. All forms of workplace harassment should be treated with equal priority. Such a comprehensive policy not only ensures that all incidents are treated seriously but also provides a layer of insulation against potential litigation as well.
3. Failure to Investigate or Follow Through
It’s one thing to have clear and consistent written policies and procedures for reporting and addressing incidents of harassment but another to actually follow through on them. Those responsible for enforcing your harassment prevention policies must not ignore or mishandle reports of harassment.
In an investigation, it is essential that your organization invest the proper resources and effort into getting to the bottom of what happened and ensuring that policies are properly enforced. Failure to enforce anti-harassment policies not only can create a lack of trust among employees and encourage future infractions but also can increase the risk of legal action by an employee whose claims were not properly investigated.
An important part of enforcement is making sure there are no “playing favorites.” All employees should be held accountable for their actions, whether summer interns or the CEO. It is too common for high-level employees to get away with things someone of lower status would not. Rank should play no role in any investigation. Employers that fail to hold high-level employees accountable for their actions perpetuate a culture of harassment and discrimination and create an unfair, unsafe work environment. They also put themselves at legal risk.
If your organization is looking for ways to mitigate workplace harassment, we can help. Halting Harassment: Rules of the Road for a Respectful and Inclusive Workplace by Epstein Becker Green is a comprehensive, compliant, and compelling anti-harassment training designed for every layer of your organization. Schedule a free demo today to learn more!