Harassment In The Workplace: How To Minimize Risk

Over thirty years ago the United States Supreme Court acknowledged sexual harassment in the workplace as an illegal form of discrimination, but that ruling did not erase it from our workplace environment even after three decades. With the surge of the MeToo Movement in 2018 and onward, it has become even more important for companies to audit their workplace harassment strategies and ensure that all bases are covered.

Here are a few reasons why having a sound workplace harassment policy matters:

  • Heightened Awareness – Public perception and awareness related to workplace harassment are at an all-time high, leaving no room for error and little room for forgiveness when oversights happen.
  • Online Reputations Matter – Business reputations are more transparent and accessible than ever before. Employees, investors and the job talent pool can learn all about you on Google.
  • Recruiting Challenges Abound – Competitive job markets make outward appearances more important than ever.
  • Risk Implications – Risk and costs associated with workplace harassment lawsuits can be detrimental to your bottom line and your business’s success.

Ways To Help Mitigate Workplace Harassment Risks 

  1. Review your company’s workplace harassment policy. Assuming you have an outlined workplace harassment policy in writing, it should be on the calendar to be reviewed on a regular basis. As the laws and the social environment change over time so should your harassment policy.
  2. Be thorough in your dissemination of the workplace harassment policy. In today’s work environment, your employees may be spread out across the country or even the globe. Even local employees may be remote or non-desk workers that need to receive updates of your policy. It’s important to use technology to ensure that you have a strong distribution process as well as a “paper trail” that proves this distribution included all employees and non-employees.
  1. Train, train and then train some more.
  1. Encourage a culture of zero tolerance. From open conversations to complaint handling to anonymous employee surveys, taking a proactive approach toward cultivating a culture that does not tolerate sexual harassment, workplace bullying or any other type of harassment is critical.
  1. Address all claims swiftly and thoroughly. Every single complaint should be taken at face value and addressed promptly. This sense of urgency or lack thereof has been a common misstep that has brought down organizations (even well-meaning ones) in the past. If complaints are anonymous, which there should be a mechanism for anonymous reporting, be sure to research deeply and seek trends in multiple reports.
  1. Keep in mind that the boundaries are blurred. The work/life boundaries are different now from even a few, short years ago. Employees communicate with each other via email, apps like Slack or Skype and even engage via social media. While in most cases these types of interactions can’t be prevented, they should be considered relevant when assessing the risks of workplace harassment. Employees and management should understand how interactions after hours and via alternate channels can still contribute to workplace harassment problems if not used appropriately.

Oasis, a Paychex® Company, a leading Professional Employer Organization (PEO), specializes in helping businesses succeed. Oasis offers expertise in training programs, internal communication strategy as well as risk assessment in relation to workplace harassment and so much more. These elements of your business’s HR function as well as payroll administration, health benefits, recruiting, hiring, onboarding and performance management. 

Get started today with a free personalized consultation from Oasis.

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