Workplace harassment is virtually an epidemic these days — the EEOC says a third of the nearly 100,000 charges it receives annually now include a harassment allegation. But the agency’s taking steps to help both workers and managers handle the problem.
Part of the problem is employees have become more sensitive to harassing behavior.
What the agency wants now
The other part of the equation is managers and rank-and-file workers are unsure what their role is in stopping harassment. So both groups think the responsibility falls on the employer.
But the reality is it falls on everyone, regardless of position, and the EEOC has outlined how you should make that clear to prevent harassment.
Which of these do you have?
The new guidance comes on the heels of a 95-page report assembled by a task force to find the best ways to prevent harassment in the workplace.
It was comprised of representatives from academia and the social sciences, legal practices, employer and employee advocacy groups, and unions.
The result: A wealth of strong guidance – most notably, four checklists the EEOC urges employers to use to stymie harassment.
The checklists of what employers should have in place are long, but here are the keys:
1. Leadership & accountability
- A prevention effort that is supported (with resources) at the highest levels of the organization.
- Time that’s allocated by leadership for a harassment prevention effort.
- A harassment prevention policy that’s easy to understand (The EEOC noted its policy was 30 pages long. It’s now working on a five-page policy that satisfies these checklists).
The EEOC says you’re making a solid effort if you conduct:
- Surveys to assess whether your employees have felt harassed.
- “Bystander intervention” training (It empowers co-workers to intervene when they witness harassment).
- “Civility” training (To promote acceptable conduct rather than just focusing on “what not to do”).
2. Anti-harassment policy
- A clear description of prohibited conduct, with examples.
- A clear description of your reporting system and the multiple avenues to report harassment.
- Statements that individual names will be kept confidential to the extent possible.
- Assurances that those who report misconduct, or act as witnesses to it, will be protected from retaliation.
3. Reporting & investigations
- Managers who take reports of harassment seriously.
- An environment in which people feel safe reporting behavior.
- Well-trained investigators, who document all the steps they take.
- Procedures (like follow-ups) to determine if individuals who report harassment experience retaliation.
- Systems to ensure alleged harassers are not presumed guilty until it’s determined harassment occurred.
- Communication of the findings of the investigation to all parties – and, if appropriate, pending discipline.
4. Compliance training
- Regularly repeated training.
- Training provided to all employees at every level of the organization.
- Qualified, live & interactive trainers.
- Examples of harassment tailored to your organization and employees.
- Simple terms that describe your reporting process.
- Clear explanations of the consequences of harassment.
- Instructions on how managers can report harassment up the ladder.