Tag Archive for: harassment

9 Tips for Employers to Develop a Model EEO Complaint Policy and Procedure

Author: Sarah Crawford

To prevent and address discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace, employers must provide effective policies and procedures. An effective policy sets expectations about behavior, provides examples of prohibited conduct, and explains the complaint and investigation process. Investigations should be conducted in a timely manner, and determinations should be communicated to the parties. Disciplinary action should be progressive and proportional to ensure accountability. Employers should incorporate the following considerations to ensure effective policies and procedures. Managers and staff should be trained on these policies and procedures.

  1. Detail what constitutes prohibited conduct. It is important to nip small problems in the bud to ensure a safe and respectful work environment. Make clear that not only unlawful conduct, but also inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated, including stray comments, sexist or racist jokes, etc. Consider establishing a policy that addresses relationships between employees and/or prohibits relationships between supervisors and direct reports.
  2. Make clear who can report concerns or file a complaint. Make clear that employees who experience or witness inappropriate conduct, discrimination, harassment, and retaliation can raise concerns and make complaints.
  3. Make clear that the policy applies both within and outside of the workplace. The policy should apply to conduct at work, business events, social events, on social media, and by phone, text, email, etc.
  4. Make clear that inappropriate conduct by third parties or directed to third parties will not be tolerated. The policy should state that harassment, discrimination, and retaliation by clients, members, customers, vendors, contractors, etc. will not be tolerated. Likewise, inappropriate conduct by employees will not be tolerated when it is directed toward a third party. In the case of inappropriate conduct by a third party, corrective action may include termination of the business relationship.
  5. Provide multiple points of conduct with the organization. Make clear that employees can report concerns to a supervisor, human resources officer, or other designated individuals, such as a board member. Ensure that reports can be made to trusted individuals and consider the gender and racial diversity among the individuals assigned to hear concerns. Specify mandatory reporting obligations for individuals designated to receive complaints. Provide an effective reporting policy for complaints against managers and organizational leaders.
  6. Consider offering anonymous reporting to an independent third party, such as an ombuds. An organizational ombuds can provide an independent and confidential resource to help employees explore options to resolve conflicts and concerns at the work.
  7. Take prompt action to address inappropriate conduct. Accountability is key. The response should be prompt, thorough, and proportionate. Clearly lay out the process and timeframe for each stage of the investigation process. Corrective action may include counseling, discipline, or termination. The response should be clear, consistent, and transparent. Communicate the resolution to the parties involved. When concerns about inappropriate conduct are widely known within the organization, the organization should communicate a strong message to staff that inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated and corrective action has been taken.
  8. Provide strong protections against retaliation. Make clear that retaliation will not be tolerated when a complaint is made in good faith, regardless of whether the complaint is ultimately deemed to have legal merit. Make clear that protections apply to witnesses and others involved in the investigation. Prohibit retaliation of any kind, including discharge, an adverse job assignment, harassment, bullying, professional disparagement, etc.
  9. Provide regular training on policies and procedures. Ensure that employees and managers understand their rights, obligations, and applicable procedures. Consider providing interactive, skills-based training to enable targets of inappropriate conduct to take action and to enable bystanders to intervene to disrupt inappropriate conduct.

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Rethinking Workplace Harassment Training

By Sarah Crawford

Too often, workplace harassment training follows a dated approach that focuses on legal standards. When training is offered, many employers offer “check-the-box” training intended to limit liability for harassment.

While it is important for managers to understand their legal obligations and for employees to understand their legal rights, new approaches to training provide more effective solutions. Yes, managers and employees must understand policies and procedures, but real change starts with organizations and individuals taking concrete, effective steps to create a culture of respect and civility that can prevent small issues from becoming big problems. 

I recently co-authored a report with Sharyn Tejani of the National Women’s Law Center, What Works at Work: Promising Practices to Prevent and Respond to Sexual Harassment in Low Paid Jobs. The report highlighted recommendations shared by workers, organizers, litigators, advocates, and social scientists who attended a two-day convening hosted by the National Women’s Law Center and the Urban Institute. The presenters and participants examined practices shown to be effective by research or through on-the-ground experience for preventing and addressing workplace sexual harassment. 

A key focus of the convening was how to better train employees and managers to prevent and respond to harassment. The presenters and participants offered a number of recommendations to rethink harassment training:

  • Training should be interactive through activities, role-playing, discussions, and demonstrations. Problem-solving and skills-building exercises can address how to identify harassment and retaliation, promote effective communication, provide constructive criticism, speak up and confront a harasser, and support individuals who come forward.
  • Training should come from a trusted messenger, who may be an outside expert, a knowledgeable supervisor, or a peer. 
  • Training should be tailored to the needs of the workforce, considering the culture and how harassment manifests. Involving workers in planning and conducting the training can help to tailor training to specific needs.
  • Training must be accessible, considering the languages that are spoken by employees, literacy levels, access to technology, and the physical location. 
  • Training can teach skills to empower bystanders to disrupt harassment. Active bystanders can intervene in the situation, reach out to an individual who faces harassment, or approach a supervisor.
  • Training should be evaluated through surveys, tests, or discussions to adapt to better meet the needs of the workforce.  
  • Training should be regular. Just as with any other subject of training in the workplace, employees should be trained, observed, critiqued, and retrained. 

As to this final point, employers should not put training on hold while many employees are working remotely and connecting online due to COVID-19. Interactive, web-based programs allow employees to actively participate in training by video through live discussions and online chat functions. 

By implementing these recommendations, training can adapt to better promote safe and respectful workplaces.  

Working IDEAL offers customized online training on issues including harassment, discrimination, retaliation, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Contact us here to learn more about the services we offer.