Only 26% of employees believe their organization can swiftly handle workplace harassment complaints, according to the report “Reality of the Modern Workplace: Understanding Employee Empowerment.”
The report also found that 1 in 6 American employees avoid reporting an issue, most likely out of fear of repercussions.
Then again, maybe they simply don’t know what to do since 48% of employees don’t even have an employee handbook, and 76% of employees have no way of submitting an anonymous complaint.
If your agency has similar issues, it’s time to fix them.
The first step? Designing better harassment policies.
We’ll give you 15 tips for writing effective harassment policies in today’s post.
But first, let’s look at why harassment policies are so important.
The Purpose of Harassment Policies
First and foremost, effective harassment policies help employees be treated equally and feel safe in the workplace.
When employees know the behaviors that aren’t allowed in the workplace, and they know exactly how they’ll be punished if they engage in prohibited behavior, they’re less likely to harass fellow employees.
It will also protect your agency from lawsuits.
One of the first things judges look at is if agencies in a harassment suit provided adequate care, resources, and training to prevent harassment from occurring in the workplace.
And ultimately, a well-written harassment policy will help create a culture of respect and civility – dramatically lowering the instances of harassment.
15 Tips on Writing Effective Harassment Policies
Harassment policies need to be written so that people can easily identify harassment and they know precisely what will happen to them if they harass coworkers.
To help you write your own harassment policy, here are 15 tips for making it clear and effective:
- Expand your harassment policy beyond sexual harassment and make sure it includes race, ethnicity, age, national origin, disability, and religion.
- Provide a crystal clear definition of harassment and a detailed list of prohibited behavior, including harassment that could occur at work-related functions or online.
- Explicitly grant protection from retaliation to employees and bystanders who file harassment complaints.
- Describe your process for anonymously filing complaints.
- Let employees file complaints with someone outside of their chain of command to avoid unnecessary conflict or fear of retaliation.
- Ensure that you will protect the identity and confidentiality of the employees who file harassment complaints, especially if complaints can’t be filed anonymously.
- Allow for an impartial investigation into harassment complaints, either from within your organization or from a 3rd party.
- Pledge to your employees that you will take immediate corrective action when harassment occurs.
- Detail the specific penalties and consequences for harassing employees, including termination.
- Do not take any action involving an alleged victim of harassment without first receiving their consent.
- Include emotionally-charged language that helps your employees viscerally understand your policies and the seriousness of harassment (i.e. say “target” instead of victim and “predator” instead of perpetrator).
- Post your harassment policy throughout your organization, on your website, and inside your employee handbook and orientation materials.
- Train all managers and supervisors in appropriately handling harassment complaints, and outline their roles and responsibilities when a complaint is filed.
- Emphasize that employees are protected from discrimination when it comes to employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, and transfers.
- Require that someone in a position of authority must give employees who file harassment complaints updates about the status of their investigation and the punitive action taken against the harasser if they’re found guilty.
Want a Complete Guide to Effective Harassment Policies?
While the harassment policy tips we just gave you are helpful, they’re often not enough.
If you want to give your harassment policies a complete overhaul (or finally create your first harassment policy), then you need in-depth guides that show you how to do it.
We can give them to you.
We provide a series of books, videos, and courses on sexual and non-sexual harassment policies and best practices, such as:
- Harassment Prevention for Employees – State and Local Government Edition
- Harassment Prevention for Managers – State and Local Government Sector Edition
- Investigating Workplace Harassment: How to Be Fair, Thorough, and Legal
- The Sexual Harassment Handbook
- The Workplace Law Advisor: From Harassment and Discrimination Policies to Hiring and Firing Guidelines: What Every Manager and Employee Needs to Know
Start using these resources and many more to design an effective harassment policy by getting your free trial of Enterprise Training below.
Experience the proven, easy-to-use, and cost-effective benefits of online training by scheduling your free online training consultation today!