Human Resources News & Insights

EEOC’s latest, best 10 tactics for preventing harassment in the workplace

The EEOC is looking to publish enforcement guidance to address illegal harassment in the workplace. That guidance is being built around several tactics the agency’s suggesting employers take to address this problem. 

Earlier this week, HR Morning reported that the EEOC is seeking public input on a proposed version of enforcement guidance regarding harassment in the workplace (the deadline for pubic input is Feb. 9, 2017).

How this all started

This process began nearly two years ago when the EEOC assembled a 16-member task force — comprised of academics, attorneys (from both the employer and employee side), members of employer and employee advocacy groups, and union representatives — to put together best practices for how employers can stymie workplace harassment.

The task force wrapped up its work this past summer, and the result was a 95-page report that provides an interesting mix of tactics employers can implement to help curb harassment in the workplace.

HR Morning broke down these tactics once the report was published, and in light of the EEOC’s release of related (albeit proposed) guidance, those tactics are worth revisiting.

Here’s what the EEOC would like to see employers doing to prevent workplace harassment in all of its forms:

  • Start at the top. Creating a workplace culture and environment in which harassment isn’t tolerated must start at the very top of the organization. From there, it must trickle down to all levels, across all positions within the company. This means when it comes to training, everyone must be involved — executives, managers, subordinates, customer-facing employees … everyone.
  • Watch out for the legal liability conundrum. Over the past 30 years, a lot of anti-harassment training has failed as a prevention tool because it has been too focused on simply avoiding legal liability.
  • Don’t just copy and paste. One-size-fits-all training doesn’t exist. Just because a particular training program worked for one employer, doesn’t mean it’s right for your organization. Training is most effective when it’s tailored to your organization.
  • Conduct “bystander intervention” training. This type of training is increasingly used to combat sexual violence on school campuses — with great success. It empowers co-workers (and students) to intervene when they witness harassing behavior, and it gives them tools with which to intervene.
  • Conduct workplace civility training. The idea is to promote respect and civility in the workplace — rather than focusing on “what not to do.”
  • Stress how to report/complain. Make sure your anti-harassment policy — particularly details on how to report/complain about harassment — is frequently communicated to employees.
  • Offer multiple points of contact. Make sure employees have a range of methods and points of contact they can use to report offensive behavior. Just providing an employee with one point of contact — say, the person’s direct supervisor — for reporting harassment may cause problems if that supervisor is the harasser.
  • Run tests. Periodically test your reporting system to assess how well it works and how serious managers treat complaints.
  • Hold managers accountable. Make sure your mid-level managers and front-line supervisors are held accountable — through the use of metrics and performance reviews — for how well they respond to workplace harassment/complaints.
  • Get data. Conduct regular employee surveys to assess the extent to which harassment is affecting your organization.
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