Best Practices for Preventing Workplace Harassment Claims
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held its second public meeting in Los Angeles with a group of experts selected to serve on the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace (the Task Force) to discuss innovative steps to prevent workplace harassment. The meeting focused on the belief that if employers develop innovative, proactive measures which can be implemented daily on the ground, the likelihood of later problems or claims can be drastically reduced.
As a result of the EEOC’s and its Task Force’s focus on curbing harassment in the workplace, as illustrated by its press release following the EEOC’s select task force meeting, employers should consider the following:
Ensure management understands that it is their responsibility to ensure a safe and efficient work environment free of harassment for people at all levels. It is important that management understands the different forms of harassment and does not tolerate it in any form (explicit or implicit sexual, gender, racial, religious, sex, national origin or disability based harassment).
On a regular basis, ensure all company anti-harassment plans and policies are current and regularly reviewed for additional updates based on changing law and workplace trends. Make sure that the reporting structure in all plans and policies makes sense for the size and type of company as well as the nature of the harassment. Keep in mind that flaws in the reporting structure of your company can cause problems if litigation ensues later.
In conducting workplace harassment investigations, make sure to adequately document and retain all formal and informal interviews, reports and other activities. Consistency in the nature and scope of disciplinary actions and the methods of resolutions can be heavily scrutinized in future litigation, so keep this in mind when making final determinations.
Keep in mind trends and regularly audit the company’s records of past complaints or claims; see if certain work locations or categories of employees are having more negative experiences than others and evaluate what changes can be implemented to prevent further potential problems.
If questions arise about workplace harassment potential claims or violations, employers should consult with legal counsel immediately.