How to Recognize and Prevent Workplace Harassment

It’s easy to feel like workplace harassment has become a thing of the past, thanks to the progressive movements and regulations that have been put into place to curb it. Unfortunately, workplace harassment is far from being a relic of ancient toxic workplace environments. In the past few years, numerous allegations and lawsuits were thrown at major corporations for sexual harassment. 

According to the EEOC, in 7 years between 2010 and 2017, over $295 million was publicly paid over workplace sexual harassment. This is quite harrowing when you consider the magnitude of harassment that can go on unnoticed privately. We’ve listed a few steps that you can take to ensure a harassment-free work environment.

Defining Harassment

To properly recognize and swiftly deal with any form of workplace harassment, you need to properly understand what the term entails, according to the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). Any unwelcome verbal or physical behavior that the recipient receives based on their race, gender, sexual identity, mental or physical disability is considered workplace harassment. The spectrum of harassment is quite wide due to the variables involved, but it’s quite easy to identify once you’ve put things into the right perspective. The most frequent forms of harassment that you need to ensure their swift exit from your office are offensive language, slurs, physical assault, sexual assault, and threats.

What makes this quite harrowing is that many employees may stay silent even when they are viciously harassed to keep their jobs; that is, in the instance where the employer or a higher-ranking employee is the perpetrator. Changing the salary of an employee can be a form of harassment when there are no reasons mentioned. Not only is a workplace full of harassment ineffective and unproductive, but it is also quite unlawful and merits the ground for a full-on lawsuit.

Different workplace environments can also alter the terms of what could be considered harassment in a legal case. Organisations which operate in the adult industry can operate in environment where interactions could be considered bordering inappropriate in other workplaces, however this doesn’t free them from any obligation to manage and train staff in stopping workplace harassment. Alison Wong, owner of an adult related business, runs induction and ongoing training to ensure that all staff are aware that while their store may sell products adult in nature, that the interactions between staff and customers must remain professional and considered at all times. 

Provide Training and Offer Awareness Programs

From the executives to the interns, all the employees are to be trained by professionals to ensure that the anti-harassment policy is properly practiced. The margin of error here is minimal, which means that you must be able to relay the message that you are going all the way to prevent such illegal and unethical behavior from happening in your business. It is essential for their training course to be mandatory or strongly encouraged, in addition to being scheduled to happen systematically, at least once or twice every year. The training should revolve around the core concepts that the anti-harassment policy encompasses.

  • The boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in work.
  • The ways that your employees can spot and report sexual harassment happening in the company.
  • A detailed list of the steps that need to be taken to report an incident officially.

Employees must understand that the intent behind an action is not the focal point of a ruthless anti-harassment policy, but rather the impact on the recipient.

Zero-Tolerance and Anti-Harassment Policy

You’ll need to work with your HR department on crafting a very serious and clear-cut policy that thoroughly condemns workplace harassment. All employees will be covered under a policy of anti-harassment and ant-discrimination. To be able to use strong legal language, you should consult with your legal counsel to ensure that every step that you will take will only reflect the strong standpoint of the company’s culture when it comes to issues related to sexual harassment and any other behavior that can cross federal laws and regulations.

Address Wrongful Behavior

Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, you need to quickly address any behavior that has the potential to become harassment. Inappropriate behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be harassment, but simply ignoring such an attitude as it borders on harassment is a very negative approach to deal with harassment. Proactivity is very important in preventing harassment because it can allow your employees or colleagues to be encouraged to stop workplace harassment in its tracks.

Nullifying Retaliation

This is one of the aspects that can get overlooked and end up causing PR disasters and lawsuits. To address workplace harassment and prevent it truly, you need your employees to feel comfortable enough to speak up. If the harasser knows that they can silence a victim, they will do all that is in their power to do so. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that a reporter of harassment is as far as possible from retaliation, encouraging workers to stand up to harassment, in addition to preventing and reporting it.

Whether you’re an executive or the owner of a business, identifying and preventing workplace harassment should be at the top of your list of priorities. Preventing harassment isn’t only morally right, but it can induce a positive work environment that allows your employees to flourish comfortably.

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