In my experience handing workplace harassment cases, I have seen firsthand the damage that these types of claims can cause to both employees and employers. To avoid such claims, it is crucial for employers to take proactive measures to prevent harassment in the workplace.
Here are some basic steps that employers can take to prevent workplace harassment:
- Establish clear policies and procedures: Employers should have a written policy that outlines their commitment to preventing harassment in the workplace. This policy should clearly define what constitutes harassment and provide a detailed procedure for reporting and investigating any complaints. Employers should also provide training to all employees on the policy and the consequences of violating it.
- Create a positive workplace culture: A positive workplace culture can go a long way in preventing harassment. Employers should promote open communication, respect, and inclusion. They should also ensure that all employees are aware of the company’s values and mission.
- Conduct regular training: Regular training on harassment prevention should be mandatory for all employees, including managers and supervisors. The training should cover the definition of harassment, the company’s policies and procedures, and how to report any incidents.
- Respond to complaints quickly and thoroughly: Employers must take all complaints of harassment seriously and investigate them promptly. The investigation should be thorough and impartial, and the employer should take appropriate action if the complaint is substantiated.
- Avoid retaliation: Employers should not retaliate against employees who report harassment. Retaliation can take many forms, including termination, demotion, or harassment. Employers should have a clear policy against retaliation and ensure that all employees are aware of it.
Workplace harassment claims can be costly for employers in terms of money and reputation. By taking proactive measures to prevent harassment, employers can create a positive workplace culture and reduce the risk of harassment claims. To best implement these steps, employers should seek guidance from experienced employment counsel.
Jeff Burke is an attorney at MacElree Harvey, Ltd., working in the firm’s Employment and Litigation practice groups. Jeff counsels businesses and individuals on employment practices and policies, executive compensation, employee hiring and separation issues, non-competition and other restrictive covenants, wage and hour disputes, and other employment-related matters. Jeff represents businesses and individuals in employment litigation such as employment contract disputes, workforce classification audits, and discrimination claims based upon age, sex, race, religion, disability, sexual harassment, and hostile work environment. Jeff also practices in commercial litigation as well as counsels business on commercial contract matters.