It is nearly impossible to turn on any news channel or social media news feed without hearing the latest in the saga of celebrity sexual harassment claims. With this type of attention to this serious topic, it is a reminder to every organization that harassment policies should be reviewed and updated as needed. Small businesses might not recognize the need for this type of policy, however, sexual harassment or sex discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and this act applies to businesses with 15 or more employees at the Federal level according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EECO). It is also important to keep in mind that individual states may have additional pertinent laws. In Michigan for example, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act dictates that employers are responsible to the laws described in this act at just 1 employee.
When reviewing employee handbooks and policies, here are some quick suggestions on where to begin when it comes to harassment:
- If your handbook is a few years old, it might not have a harassment section. This needs to be added as soon as possible!
- Employers need to establish a harassment policy making it clear what behaviors will not be tolerated.
- This written policy should include details on how to make a complaint, ensuring that there is a provision for filing the complaint with more than one designated person, and that the employee will not be in trouble for making the complaint.
- Managers need to be trained at a higher level on the policy (separate from the employees) to be sure they know how to handle a harassment claim should they receive one.
- The harassment policy should be distributed to all employees at least annually.
- Best practices could include a written acknowledgment that the employee has read and understood the policy. This acknowledgement should be kept in their employee file.
This is just a quick set of suggestions to get you started and it is not a complete guide to addressing this type of policy.
While harassment policies may need to be reviewed by an attorney, Sage Solutions Group can complete HR audits to be sure organizations are compliant with the current EEOC guidelines and local/state laws. Further, as HR consultants, we can assist organizations with training and implementation of a new or updated policy. We can also provide Anti-Harassment seminars for your group to address harassment in all its forms to help prevent your organization from falling into the trap of these types problems in the workplace.