New York employers of all sizes should have and enforce a policy for handling workplace harassment. These policies can look a little different for every business, but there are three components that every policy should have.
1: It is clear
Harassment policies can be most effective when they are easy to understand and navigate.
Employers can address harassment and detail how they will respond to claims in an employee handbook. This information should include:
- Definitions of different types of harassment
- How and where employees can make a complaint
- What the response from Human Resources or management will be
- Details of the rights individuals have in these situations
Having this information easily accessible for employers and employees can be crucial in responding properly to any complaints.
2: It is consistent
Every harassment complaint is unique and should receive an individualized response tailored to the situation. That said, consistency is also vital.
Employers should treat every person who makes a claim with respect and compassion. They should take the same steps to record details, follow up, and investigate every situation. Following the same procedure for every report can minimize the complications that can arise when harassment claims give way to discrimination accusations.
It can also be wise to train managers to identify and respond to harassment in a way that aligns with the rest of the business leaders.
3: It supports fair, timely conclusions
Taking a complaint seriously and responsibly can mean taking the necessary action after a thorough investigation. If there is no follow-through or closure, employees may take more aggressive legal action.
Depending on the results of an investigation into a harassment complaint, the outcome could involve:
- Issuing warnings
- Punishing perpetrators
- Responding swiftly to the complainant with developments and updates
- Transferring, suspending or terminating harassers
- Making formal apologies
- Following up to ensure harassment stops
These actions vary by severity of the harassment and those involved. However, responsible employers will take corrective action swiftly and reinforce preventative measures.
State and federal laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Having a clear, consistent policy and taking appropriate action after a complaint can help employers comply with these laws and protect workers.