No one, from employees to employers, wishes to ever experience a harassment or discrimination claim. It is mentally exhausting, expensive and causes negative waves to wash throughout the whole organization. Additionally, claims of this nature can lead to adverse effects that an organization can feel for months and even years.
As an employer, you can take steps to minimize risks in the areas of discrimination and harassment, while also growing and creating a thriving, progressive work environment.
Remember, not everything is reducible to a simple list. The entries on the list below (each of which could be the subject of a long seminar or even a law school course) should be a firm reminder or a prompt to proactively implement solid processes or procedures. When in doubt, do not hesitate to contact DecisionHR immediately. We can help direct you towards the answers you need.
The following tips can help your company by preventing harassment and discrimination claims and reduce risk.
- Company’s Commitment
First and foremost, the leaders of a company or organization, including the owners, executives and senior managers, must personally commit to promoting and creating an environment and culture which does not tolerate discrimination or harassment in the workplace. When employees see that the leaders of a company or organization are committed to such principles, they are less likely to engage in such conduct. And, if they do, they know that they will face potentially severe consequences for their behavior.
- Strong Policies and Procedures
Employers must establish strong policies against unlawful harassment and discrimination. The policies should define and provide examples of what constitutes such conduct. If the employer’s business is part of a unique industry such as restaurant services, retail or manufacturing, the policy should include examples which are applicable to that workplace or industry. This will ensure the policy has meaning beyond words.
- Reporting Process
The policies should also include a clear process for employees to report claims of discrimination and harassment. For example, the policy should state the following: “Should an employee feel that he or she has been the victim of discrimination or harassment, the employee should immediately report the claim to his or her supervisor or to company’s HR Department.”
- A Clear Investigation Process
All policies also should include a clear overview of the employer’s investigation process. It should express the employer’s commitment to conducting an immediate and thorough investigation and to taking any remedial action, where necessary.
- No Retaliation
Policies should ensure employees that they will not be retaliated against for making claims of discrimination or harassment, and that the employer will take all steps to protect the employee and their confidentiality.
Perhaps the most important element of a strong prevention program is regular training for both managers and employees. The training can be conducted by lawyers, trained human resources professionals or a recognized online training source. Employers should examine their organizational culture and environment to determine what is the best training option for their employees. Whatever decision the employer makes it should ensure that the training is conducted on a regular basis – at least annually. Additionally, some states actually require mandatory training on these issues.
Although claims of discrimination and harassment are on the rise, they can be limited and their impact can be minimized. Employers must commit to having a zero-tolerance environment for discrimination and harassment, and must be firm in implementing the necessary policies, practices, tools and training to support that commitment.
At DecisionHR we pride ourselves in staying in the forefront, continuously monitoring and regulating industry changes and its possible impact on your business.
Contact your HR Business Partner for additional information on any questions or HR issues you may have.