What Should an Anti-Harassment Policy Contain?
All employers should have a written anti-harassment policy and a corresponding complaint and investigation procedure. Employers who do not have such a policy may open themselves up to liability in instances when a supervisor is charged with harassing an employee. Additionally, employees who have been the subject of harassment have a duty to report it to the employer. Having a complaint procedure in place provides employees with a means to do this – and employees who do not use the procedure to notify the employer of the harassment may have difficulty winning a harassment lawsuit against the employer.
Employers should post their anti-harassment policy in the workplace and distribute it to all employees. Employers should explain what harassment is to their employees and that it is not tolerated in the workplace. Employers also may want to provide their managers and supervisors with training so that they understand what harassment it is, how to recognize it in the workplace and the correct way to handle employee complaints.
The Complaint Process
Most critically, such a policy should contain a reasonable complaint process for employees. A policy that requires an employee to complain to his or her supervisor will not be considered reasonable if the supervisor is the person harassing the employee. There has to be alternative avenues for the employee to take if the designated intake officer is the harasser. The procedures should be as easy to follow as possible. A policy that requires the employee to submit a written, witnessed complaint to one distantly located officer of the company may be considered unduly burdensome or intimidating. It may even discourage employees from submitting claims at all.
Treat All Complaints Equally
It is also important that the complaint and investigation procedures are carried out equally for all employees. While there may need to be some changes in the types of inquiries that are made based on the type of complaint, to ensure the fairness of the procedure, employers should take care that their anti-harassment policies are applied uniformly.