Six things your company must have to avoid workplace harassment

by Contributor on 09 Mar 2018

On February 19, an engineer named Susan J. Fowler published a post on her personal blog alleging sexual harassment at Uber, now her former employer.

According to Fowler, the company failed to prosecute a workplace harassment claim she filed because the accused was viewed as a “high performer” with no track record of such behavior. (Fowler eventually learned there had been other complaints against him.) The blog post was called “Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber,” and the story’s been widely reported, serving as a reminder to make sure your company’s doing what it can to prevent sexual harassment.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is about to conclude a period of public commentary on new guidelines. Robin E. Shea, writing for JD Supra, has gone through the draft and identified six things the EEOC says every office must have to comply with best practices in avoiding sexual harassment in the workplace.

The things every office needs are as follows:

01. A policy in plain language
According to the EEOC draft, a policy needs to be “comprehensive, easy-to-understand, and regularly communicated to all employees,” as well as translated into their native language to avoid misunderstandings. Employees should be trained about what sexual harassment is and informed of the consequences of engaging in harassing behavior.
 
02. An accessible complaint procedure
There should be multiple ways to report a violation, and employees should be trained on how to do so.
 
03. Regular training for supervisors and managers
In addition to receiving the same training as employees, supervisors and managers should regularly be trained in their own responsibilities, including instruction regarding retaliatory remedies. The training should be endorsed and promoted by senior leadership and should be presented live, or at a minimum, interactively online.
 
04. Anonymous employee surveys
Surveys can provide a way to touch base with employees to make sure that harassment isn’t taking place. The EEOC recommends this in the draft guidelines, although Shea notes: “An employee survey could be discoverable by the EEOC or a plaintiff’s lawyer in litigation. If you are thinking about conducting a “harassment survey,” consult with your employment law counsel first. There may be ways to structure the survey to preserve attorney-client privilege.”
 
05. Harassment investigators who are disinterested
Having unbiased investigators of harassment claims is critical. Consider Fowler’s situation in which she felt Uber didn’t adequately pursue her harassment claim because it highly valued the accused. A claim must be investigated by someone in a position to conduct an inquiry honestly, without regard to other business factors or in fear of retaliation — an investigator can’t be managed by the accused nor, obviously, can it be the accused person themselves.
 
06. An investigation that is fair to the accuser and the accused, preserves confidentiality, and results in appropriate action
For the company to move forward after an investigation, it’s vital that every effort has been made to make the process fair and thorough as a way to underscore the company’s commitment to preventing further harassment.
 
This article by Robby Berman originally appeared in TINYpulse.

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