There are several ways in which an employee can be harassed in the workplace. Most think of sexual harassment when they think about work-related harassments, but other forms of abusive behaviors are also practiced to make work a very uncomfortable environment for some.
There should be no allowance for this type of behavior, and if you are an employer, you have a legal obligation to your employees to provide them with working conditions that do not include intimidation, ridicule, or insults. No employee should have to suffer from discrimination for their gender, national origin, color, race, or religion while they are performing their work.
You may be held legally responsible if you do not take measures to stop harassment you are aware of at your place of business. If you are a supervisor in a large company, you are responsible for the well being of those working under your directions; therefore may be legally responsible if you do not prevent harassment in your workplace.
What is Considered Unlawful Harassment?
Harassment is defined under the law as physical or verbal conduct which displays hostility or aversion toward another individual. This behavior is a result of the individual’s skin color, gender, religion, race, age, disability, or national origin. The actions being taken cause:
·An intimidating or hostile work environment for an individual
·Unreasonable interference with the individuals work performance
·Effects the individual’s opportunities for employment
The harassment can be displayed in several different actions or behaviors:
Hostile acts relating to color, race, national origin, age, disability, gender, or religion. The actions can be in the form of jokes, hostile pranks or demeaning one due to their color, race, national origin, age, disability, gender, or religion
Graphic or written material that displays hostility toward an individual because of their skin color, race, national origin, age, disability, gender, or religion. The content could be displayed on the walls of the workplace, bulletin boards at work, or any other location where the individual and others can see in the workplace.
If you are unclear whether or not the actions or behaviors being reported or you see demonstrate harassment, conduct a ‘reasonable person standard.’ This standard means, you would ask yourself if a reasonable person in the same situation would think the conduct was intimidating or hostile, then it is a good chance it is harassment.
How to Prevent and Handle the Harassment
You should have policies and procedures in place at your workplace that state to employees; it is not tolerated or acceptable to harass any individual at the workplace. Incorporate this language into your employee handbooks or orientations for new hires, so all employees are aware there will be consequences if the behavior is displayed and reported.
Also, you should have in place an effective complaint procedure that allows employees to come to you with problems. They must be made to feel comfortable enough to report any negative issues resulting from their work environment to you.
When you receive a complaint about harassment occurring between your employees, you should:
·Begin by documenting the complete investigation and the steps you took to remedy the situation
·Quickly investigate any claims that are brought to your attention
·Treat the situation as if you were in court from the moment it is brought to your attention. You may even consider alerting your company attorney of the situation
·Do not initiate any action that could be taken as harmful to the person making the complaint
·Stop the harassment immediately with whatever steps are necessary
·If the harassment is proven, the person responsible should receive disciplinary actions
·If necessary or possible, you should correct past discrimination actions taken on the individual
An excellent method of preventing harassment at your workplace is to instill a zero tolerance policy. This policy should be written and spell out that you will not tolerate any form of harassment in your workplace.
In the policy, you should define harassment, include a harassment prohibition statement, a summary of your complaint procedure, state what disciplinary actions that can be expected, and an explanation of protection against the retaliation.