Employment Practices: Combating Workplace Harassment
At a recent meeting held by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), workplace harassment topped the agenda with the agency stating that this employment practices issue continues to be a persistent problem. The agency backed its concern over workplace harassment with several statistics: Since 2010, more than 25% of all charges included harassment allegations. In 2014, 6,862 charges alleged sexual harassment. More than 4,848 disability discrimination charges and over 9,023 racial discrimination charges included some allegation of harassment.
In response to this continued issue the EEOC is establishing a task force to convene experts from the employer community, workers’ advocates, human resources experts, academics, and others in a broader effort to identify effective strategies that work to prevent and remedy harassment in the workplace. “Through this task force we hope to better reach workers to ensure they know their rights and to better reach employers to promote best practices,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang at the meeting.
In addition, several pointers and reminders were discussed at the meeting, which was attended by several attorneys and others, for companies to take heed in mitigating harassment in the workplace:
- Employee training as a means of preventing harassment is strongly recommended by the EEOC. The key elements include: effective, mandatory, and company-wide presentations and workshops offered throughout the year; specific training for supervisors and managers (distinct from non-managers since responsibilities vary depending on position); and diligent recordkeeping of attendance.
- A strong anti-harassment policy should be in place providing detailed instruction on how to report a complaint. The policy should identify specific individuals to receive complaints. Company statements and investigation of complaints should be done promptly and an employer should not retaliate against anyone for lodging a complaint. Likewise, the employer should include a statement that it retains the right to discipline or fire employees who knowingly raise false complaints.
- Dissemination of company policy against workplace harassment is important. The information should be electronically if possible and on bulletin boards at every facility. The company policy should be included in employee handbooks or personnel manuals, and discussed during training sessions and company meetings.
- A review the investigation process should be made, with updated training of all supervisors and managers to identify complaints. Also, be sure complaints, witness statements, and circumstances are well documented. Suspend the alleged harasser, with or without pay, and immediately remove any offensive material. Consider offering a temporary transfer of either of the parties involved. Identify all potential witnesses and distinguish witnesses with first-hand information from gossip and rumors. Ensure that every manager or supervisor fully understands their role and the importance of that role.
Caitlin Morgan provides EPLI insurance for a number of industries and can help you protect your insureds as workplace issues such as harassment continue to be problematic and on the agenda of the EEOC. Contact us at 877.226.1027 for more information.
Source: Labor & Employment Newsletter