Best Practices for Preventing Harassment

Last year the EEOC issued Recommendations Regarding Harassment Prevention Policies and Procedures. Here are a few of the most important takeaways in the EEOC report:

  • Employers should adopt and maintain a comprehensive anti-harassment policy (which prohibits harassment based on any protected characteristic, and which includes social media considerations).
  • Employers should ensure that the anti-harassment policy, and in particular details about how to complain of harassment and how to report observed harassment, are communicated frequently to employees, in a variety of forms and methods.
  • Employers should offer reporting procedures that are multi-faceted, offering a range of methods, multiple points-of-contact, and geographic and organizational diversity where possible, for an employee to report harassment.
  • Employers should be alert for any possibility of retaliation against an employee who reports harassment and should take steps to ensure that such retaliation does not occur.
  • Employers should periodically “test” their reporting system to determine how well the system is working.
  • Employers should devote sufficient resources so that workplace investigations are prompt, objective, and thorough. Investigations should be kept as confidential as possible, recognizing that complete confidentiality or anonymity will not always be attainable.

If you are an employer and do not have an anti-harassment policy in place, get one. If you have policies, confirm that that they are consistent with current best practices and address things like texting and social media. Make sure to train employees on any new or updated policies. Even if you do not make any changes to your anti-harassment policies, now would be a good time to remind all employees of what constitutes prohibited conduct and how to report it.

The complete report, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace Report of Co-Chairs Chai R. Feldblum & Victoria A. Lipnic Executive Summary & Recommendations, can be found at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/report_summary.cfm

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