Work place harassment is happening and most supervisors don’t even
understand or know that it is taking place right before their eyes. In
cases where any type of harassment takes place and management knew or
should have known the company becomes liable.
So how does an organization reduce or eliminate their liability in a work place harassment claim?
It all begins and ends with training and establishing a policy! Training that includes both management and employees! Awareness is the key!
The trouble when an organization hears that they must conduct training they make it much more complicated than it has to be (California unfortunately has made it more complicated AB1825). They begin thinking that they must bring in an expert to conduct extensive training that eats away at employee productivity and of course the cost of the expert! Now certainly you can follow this common practice but again the idea is awareness and a no tolerance policy against work place harassment. Any form of harassment or discrimination such as age discrimination, sexual harassment, race discrimination, national origin, sexual orientation, and so on. Lump them all into one quick and often conducted training and/or orientation session.
So let’s take a look at how simple we can make this and then carry it out.
From the initial interview process I believe you begin to establish your organizations stance on a no tolerance policy against harassment. Therefore, include the question(s) in your interview and make sure you maintain records of your interview questions and their responses. This should be a standard practice anyway in case someone ever makes a claim of discrimination because they were not hired. Questions like “We have a no tolerance policy on any type of work place harassment. How do you feel about that?” Sounds simple but you put the policy out there from the very start of the employment process.
From there you make sure the very first day the employee starts work you should have a standard written and documented orientation package covering everything from safety procedures to in this case your policy on harassment and discrimination. Make sure you cover all forms of harassment and discrimination to include; sexual harassment, age discrimination, race discrimination, national origin discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, religious discrimination, color discrimination, political discrimination, disability harassment, and veteran status discrimination. Now I have referred to these as discrimination but make no mistake if you can discriminate against someone you can harass them? They all fall within a protected class.
So is there a difference
between harassment and discrimination? A very slight one! If I don’t
promote you because you are a female, that can be considered
discrimination. On the other hand if you speak to a female in a
discriminating way, such as, “All women are just alike!” That can be
considered work place harassment.
The way an organization becomes liable is if they allow either discrimination or harassment to take place or create an environment for it to take place. For instance if they allow risky posters or comic strips that are considered insulting to certain groups of people to be posted on bulletin boards it is considered endorsing the practice and sets the organization up for a large law suit should someone make a claim.
When it comes to
ongoing training I would recommend what is referred to as “Fifteen
Minutes of Training!” That simply means taking a few minutes, not
necessarily fifteen minutes, either when all the employees arrive or
just before they leave you conduct a very quick training and document
it. Don’t complicate it! Of course it does no good to do the training
and then allow the insulting behavior to take place. You must follow
through on all aspects of setting the environment for a no tolerance to harassment! Good Luck!
Thank you and May God bless you!
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