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Workplace Harassment: Training Isn't Always Enough

A recent claim of harassment was revived by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court Of Appeals. In the case of Stamey v. Forest River, Inc., No. 21-1539, a worker, aged 61, claims a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, citing that not only was he harassed continually by co-workers, but that his reporting of the incident to supervisors and HR went largely ignored.

 

Last week lawmakers introduced Speak Out Act, “a bipartisan bill that aims to stop employers from forcing workers to remain silent about current and future instances of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.”

 

In another case, “Former Las Vegas Raiders employees have alleged that the organization enabled a toxic culture of harassment and a hostile work environment.”

 

With so much talk and public awareness over the last several years regarding harassment, why are there so many recent reports of blatant acts of discrimination ---with allegations aimed at  some of the most well-known and resourced organizations?

 

It’s not that harassment is not being addressed. Most employees lament the requirement to sit through long training videos on the topic of workplace harassment. It’s not because employees don’t take the topic seriously. In fact, it might be just the opposite. It’s more likely that employees do not want to go through the motions of what feels like an empty gesture just for the sake of checking harassment off the HR “To Do” list.

 

How can you engage employees in the fight against workplace harassment? For starters, training is good and necessary, but that’s not where the substance is. Employees need to know that harassment will be taken seriously from start to finish.

 

Establish an Anti-harassment Policy

  • Make sure employees understand what constitutes harassment
  • Give employees a protocol for how to report harassment
  • Provide alternative protocols for reporting harassment by a supervisor or HR employee
  • Make sure employees and supervisors understand that harassment is not to be tolerated
  • Provide procedures for investigating claims
  • Make sure all founded claims are met with disciplinary action

 

75% of sexual harassment cases in the workplace are unreported.

 

Consistently Follow All Policy Procedures

  • Follow-up on reports immediately
  • Investigate every claim within a predetermined time-frame
  • Use discretion during the investigation to protect all parties involved
  • Supervisors should be trained to spot and write-up harassing behavior
  • Harassment that escalates to abuse/violence should be reported to law enforcement
  • Discussions of investigations as office gossip should be reprimanded

 

Approximately two-thirds (64%) of older workers (ages 45-74) say they have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace.

 

Rebuild a Harassment-free Workplace

  • Confirmed harassment should be met with discipline appropriate to the offense
  • For blatant and egregious offenses, the harassing employee should be terminated
  • Reinforce your commitment against harassment with an annual policy signing
  • Eliminate any retaliation by coworkers towards an harassed employee
  • Document all harassment claims, investigations, results and disciplinary actions
  • Initiate relevant team building activities to establish a healthy team environment

 

“In the United States, $112.7 million was collected from employers for racial discrimination violations, not including money that was received from lawsuits.”

Remember that harassment, on top of being unpleasant, takes a physical toll on both the employee being harassed and those made uncomfortable at being exposed to harassment. It increases anxiety and stress, both of which can make employees more vulnerable to illness and injury. Call Workplace Safety Screenings to get started on an anti-harassment workplace policy as part of a comprehensive workplace safety program.

 

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