Identifying and Preventing Workplace Harassment and Discrimination
Harassment and discrimination have no place in daily life, so the same logic should apply in the workplace. Whether you’re the owner of a business or you’re simply an employee, you need to be aware of your rights, other employees’ rights, what harassment looks like, and how to address it.
Know Your Legislature
Before you even begin onboarding, you and your HR team need to know the laws around workplace harassment and discrimination. As a general rule, most people know that it is illegal to refrain from hiring someone based on their gender, race, mental health, religion, and so on; however, your state most likely requires you to keep much more stringent measures in place.
For example, many states require that you post anti-discrimination and anti-harassment notices around the workplace. While this is much more of a box to check than a prophylactic measure, it’s important to make sure that your workplace is compliant in the event of harassment or discrimination. Similarly, your employee handbook should have a strict, explicit explanation of your workplace’s harassment policies.
Speaking of policies…
As you should already know, harassment and discrimination don’t belong in your business; your employees have the right to a safe and supportive workplace. The best way to ensure that this happens is by establishing a zero-tolerance policy toward harassment. Naturally, this will also mean that you need to outline and define the parameters of harassment, discrimination, and bullying.
The reason for explaining this is twofold: it establishes the ground rules for anyone who’s unsure of how to interact with fellow employees, and it puts everyone on the same page so that no one can claim ignorance. With this policy established and explained, you’re able to act on harassment claims at your discretion without having to worry about a strike system or having to compromise at another employee’s expense.
Your HR team will also need to be well-versed in your preventative policies and how to handle claims. Harassment isn’t always a black-and-white issue, but your team will have to handle each instance from the standpoint of the victim. This may take some extra training to accomplish, so be sure to set aside some spare time if you deem it necessary.
As the Internet continues to worm its way into your employees’ lives, it’s important to keep in mind the part that social media plays in workplace harassment. This can be a sticky issue for some people; after all, some states have laws against punishing employees for their online conduct. Nevertheless, your employees’ interactions with each other outside of the workplace do impact their relationships with each other inside of the workplace, so that’s what you should focus on.
In general, any behavior from one employee—or a group of employees—that makes another employee or group of employees feel vulnerable or harassed still qualifies as harassment, regardless of the medium. It’s easy to excuse social media conduct as a separate entity, but if it causes your employees any kind of distress, it’s a problem.
Handling social media interactions is another matter entirely. While you should absolutely cover social media interactions in your zero-tolerance policy debrief, it’s vital to continue to reinforce the idea that cyberbullying is still a form of harassment. To that end, it may be in your employees’ best interests for you to hold monthly seminars on different types of harassment and how to avoid it.
Simply put, there are no grey areas when it comes to harassment; the old “intent matters” adage doesn’t hold true here. Your best bet for handling harassment “grey areas”, as mentioned above, is to cover as many different types of harassment as possible in workshops. Not only will this help your employees focus on preventing workplace harassment, it will also ensure that they aren’t inadvertently making others uncomfortable.
At Abacus Payroll, we take your employees’ happiness and wellbeing very seriously. For more information on how you can prevent workplace harassment, discrimination, and bullying, call us at (856) 677-6225 today.
Need more HR guidance?
Rest assured with Abacus Payroll’s online HR Help Center. If you don’t have an HR department and are trying to stay on top of legislation and compliance yourself, consider outsourcing your HR functions for a nominal fee.