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A workplace harassment policy lays out the guidelines, chain of command, and potential disciplinary penalties for harassment in the workplace. A written policy is a good way to let employees know what behavior is allowed, what actions to take if harassment of any kind occurs, and what damage may be done by harassment. Writing a workplace harassment policy can take some time, research, and careful wording. If done correctly, a workplace harassment policy can help limit the risk of harassment, and give employees a clear guide as to what behavior is expected of them.
One of the first steps when writing a workplace harassment policy is to read all applicable laws. These may include regional, state, and federal laws, and can concern issues like discrimination, assault, and hate speech. Some unions also have harassment guidelines that may be useful in union workplaces. Reading and understanding these laws can help an employer determine what information needs to be included in the policy, and what actions carry the possibility of legal action, as well as workplace-issued discipline. A commercial or workplace harassment lawyer may be able to help employers word a policy to ensure compliance with all laws.
A workplace harassment policy needs to be clear and concise. Some experts recommend using specific examples to show what an acceptable or unacceptable statement may be, while others encourage the use of concepts such as professionalism and manners to help inform harassment guidelines. At the very least, the policy can define each type of harassment, such as verbal, physical, or sexual, and the characteristics of harassing behavior.
In addition to explaining the parameters of harassment, a workplace harassment policy can outline the reporting guidelines for any incidents that occur. This may include filing a written complaint, requesting a meeting with an immediate supervisor, and a means of reporting to a higher placed company figure should the complaint involve an immediate superior. Some experts recommend including a clause that states the company's position on retaliation, so that employees will know that their job will not be at risk for filing a report.
A written sexual harassment policy can be very beneficial to human resources or upper-level management as well as regular employees, as it can outline the procedure for investigation and response to incidents of harassment. Having a clear investigative procedure is similar to having a good fire escape plan; if the situation ever comes up, it can be an enormously helpful resource. The policy can also outline possible penalties for incidents of harassment, including suspension, probation, and termination.
Writing the best workplace harassment policy in the world will do little good if it is not clearly and consistently enforced. Since the company may be legally liable for any harassment lawsuit, it is important that upper-level employees do not get the idea that they are above the law in any respect. Writing a clear policy with a specific chain of command and plan of action for harassment issues may help prevent these issues from occurring, or at least let employees know that their safety is an important issue in the workplace.
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