Are you worried about harassment allegations in your business?
Guest Blog Contributed by Chamber Member Darcey McAllister of HRT Northwest
Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Roy Moore and the #MeToo campaign continue to bring allegations of old sexual harassment activities to light wreaking havoc on careers and lives. I’m confident that many of these powerful people thought they wouldn’t ever be held accountable because of their power. I’m equally confident that there are many business leaders out there who think they are too small to be held accountable for their actions – but what if they’re wrong?
I’m not saying that everyone is a sexual harasser. Most people I’ve worked with have been professional, caring, well-behaved, sensible people. But for many human resources practitioners and business leaders, there is a risk that an incident someone complained about at some point may not have been handled correctly. Or, we all know a fun-loving jokester who may push the line slightly. In the current climate, those may come back to haunt an organization; particularly since courts have said that an employer can be held liable if it failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment.
There are proactive steps you can take to address these risks. Begin by resetting expectations now. For any company this should include the following:
- Have a policy that affirms the company’s philosophy of a respectful, inclusive, professional atmosphere. The policy should state that harassment of any kind will not be tolerated, that complaints will be taken seriously and investigated, that those found guilty of harassment will be held accountable and that retaliation will not be tolerated.
- Communicate that policy. Generally, this is done via harassment prevention training for all employees. This training should highlight what behavior is not acceptable, explain how to report complaints and what happens when there is an investigation. While many trainings focus heavily on sexual harassment, the company should emphasize that harassment of any protected characteristic will not be tolerated. Additionally, it is a good idea to hold training for managers and supervisors on how to respond to complaints that are brought forward.
- Address unacceptable behavior when it happens. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. Take the jokester mentioned above aside, specify the behaviors that are out of line and explain that his or her actions will no longer be tolerated going forward.
Finally, if you’re worried about something in the past, go back and review what happened. Identify what should have been handled differently and determine if you need to take further action to correct that old wrong. If you know of a person or area in your business that persistently pushes the line of respectability it’s time to take action.
HRT Northwest helps companies with their people-related programs including policy development, employee relations, and training. www.hrtnorthwest.com . For more Information contact Darcey at 206-390-0098 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org