Typically, when we think about harassment in the workplace, we think about someone making a remark that someone else interprets as being offensive. With this, we typically think that there wasn’t really any mal-intent behind said remark and even tell ourselves that the person who reports the harassment is being…. well, just a little bit too sensitive.
we noted in our blog post a few weeks ago, harassment is a bit subjective by
nature. What’s harassment to you might not barely be picked up on the radar of
another person, and vice versa. With this in mind, the US Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines harassment as “unwelcome
conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability
or genetic information.” Further, they note that “harassment becomes unlawful
when 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued
employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work
environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or
besides the obvious bullying, name calling, and unwanted sexual advances that
we typically think of when workplace harassment is bought up, there are several
other forms these behaviors can take that are all too easy to overlook. Below,
we share a few examples from the EEOC and employment lawyers trot out as
- Managers or supervisors setting impossible work-related goals for their workers, such as unrealistic sales goals or factory production numbers.
- Managers or supervisors declining to allow certain workers to attend training or other career-advancing opportunities.
- Managers or supervisors holding business meetings at locations that may limit participation by workers, such as a member’s only country clubs, the golf course, or a gentleman’s club.
- Employee or employees playing practical jokes on a second worker, particularly if they inhibit an individual’s ability to perform their job in a timely or appropriate fashion.
- Employee or employees sharing offensive jokes – either in person or online – that may be offensive to certain genders, cultures, religions, or sexuality.
- Employee or employees declining to invite or include a second worker in activities, both inside and outside of work, or hosting events that could be considered exclusionary.
second, yet important form of discrimination that should not be overlooked is
that of retaliation associated with filing a discrimination charge and any of
the pursuant legal aspects of the claim (e.g. participating in the investigation,
testifying, etc). Employers, meanwhile, can run afoul of these laws by
participating in employment practices that lead to discrimination, such as only
seeking a man for a job or declining to hire a woman in her late fifties
because she’s mere years away from retirement.
these parameters in place, we see that harassment IS more than a comment and something that is far from
subjective. We also know, courtesy of the EEOC, that your inability to respond
to said harassment can land your business in a ton of legal trouble.
we’ve touched on before, to protect yourself, your company, and your fellow
workers, the wisest thing to do is draft a written anti-harassment policy and
post it in your employee handbook. Having someone sign a document when they
first join the company isn’t quite enough to keep anti-harassment front and
center. Instead, as an employer, you need to build in reminders. As such, we at
Abel HR recommend that you hold routine training as necessary to remind
employees about what constitutes harassment, how to avoid it, and how you
should report it should it ever occur. Further, you’d be wise to train your HR
professional or partner with a PEO since they fully understand the reporting
process and all that it entails in order to fulfill the employer responsibility
aspect of the harassment policies.
course, this blog post really condenses down all the most salient information
related to anti-harassment policies and it really is a very intricate, very
detailed, and incredibly nuanced aspect of being an employer, and one where the
stakes are so high that it could even cost you your business. The good news is,
we are here to help. We at Abel HR can help you craft an anti-harassment policy
that has passed the muster of a lawyer, develop and lead best-in-class
anti-harassment training, and even use our team of in-house investigators
should a claim arise and guide you through all that that entails. To learn
more, give us a call at 609.860.0400.