With the surfacing of discussions regarding workplace harassment, it's a great time to make sure that your company has solidified its policies, protections, and processes. Although it is not a subject matter your company may have to deal with often, it is something it needs to be prepared to handle. As a result, there are two main areas you need to handle:
1. The provision of a safe environment for your staff to open up
2. A harassment policy that your company establishes and follows
Providing a Safe Environment for Staff
Safety is delivered to individuals in many different forms, but when having to engage a workplace harassment issue, safety is considered to be the provision of a haven where employees can talk freely about a scenario without having to engage political, physical, or environmental threats. This can become difficult in companies, particular smaller ones where employees who would have to handle disciplinary matters are directly involved with each other. Here are some tips to make sure your company is set up:
Smaller companies should consider hiring a third-party agency for HR-related issues. First, it provides a non-emotional mediator for employees and employers to work openly and effectively. More importantly, however, it gives employees a private forum to discuss problems in the workplace they feel would compromise their position if discussed with other members of their company.
Issue an anti-retaliation policy. This, in hope, will let staff know that any threats to employment are unacceptable from anyone and provides grounds for termination.
Semi-annual training should be conducted by an HR specialist dedicated to educating staff about company policies, how to handle matters of harassment, and who to talk to in the event something troubling occurs.
Break rooms should have information posted regarding who to contact about harassment issues and where to go. This information should be updated regularly.
Express and practice confidentiality in the event an employee discusses a matter in confidence.
Make Sure Your Company Has an Established Harassment Policy
Many companies by law are required to have certain paperwork in place to protect them, but the paperwork only truly safeguards it if the protocols are followed. It is important to not only have a structure in place that is legally sound, but it is equally important to design one that you know your company will be able to realistically follow. Here are some tips to make sure you are ready:
Update harassment policies in your company's employee handbook.
Make sure to provide contact information to the point of contact in the company who is in charge of handling all harassment-related issues both publicly and in your company's employee handbook. In the event an employee seeks out management, the manager should immediately direct the information to the appropriate contact point.
Consider mediation and termination of employment based on thorough review of a matter in conjunction to company policies, not the intensity of emotion being expressed.
Have your company read and sign off that they read the employee handbook every year.
In the event a harassment situation arises, keep proper and detailed notations. Information such as who was in the room during the discussion, when it took place, attitudes, demeanors, etc., should be recorded.