In an effort to prevent harassment in the workplace, or at least to protect themselves in case of a complaint, many employers initiate harassment policies. Some are formulated well in advance of a problem, and others have a more seat-of-the-pants arrangement.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released the findings of a select task force on the study of harassment in the workplace.
The report includes the following recommendations regarding harassment prevention policies and procedures:
* Employers should adopt and maintain a comprehensive anti-harassment policy (which prohibits harassment based on any protected characteristic, and which includes social media considerations) and should establish procedures consistent with the principles discussed in the EEOC report.
* Employers should ensure that the anti-harassment policy, and in particular details about how to complain of harassment and how to report observed harassment, are communicated frequently to employees, in a variety of forms and methods.
* Employers should offer reporting procedures that are multi-faceted, offering a range of methods, multiple points-of-contact, and geographic and organizational diversity where possible, for an employee to report harassment.
* Employers should be alert for any possibility of retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and should take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur.
* Employers should periodically “test” their reporting system to determine how well the system is working.
* Employers should devote sufficient resources so that workplace investigations are prompt, objective, and thorough. Investigations should be kept as confidential as possible, recognizing that complete confidentiality or anonymity will not always be attainable.