How updated is your handbook? How about your anti-harassment policy? Are you training your employees diligently or is harassment only a taboo word used during on-boarding? The times have shifted, and employers need to take notice of their risk should harassment occur.
I had the opportunity to attend a very informational conference on the different laws that employers deal with daily. The longest section of that conference really focused on the #MeToo movement and how it has impacted the courts, employers, and employees. Not long ago, a simple policy and an annual training was enough to show that a company was doing its part to prevent sexual harassment. However, with the #MeToo movement, that has revealed that a policy and annual training may not be enough. The number of lawsuits in 2017 involving sexual harassment jumped by 50%. Does that number catch your eye? It sure did mine. That means as an employer, you have two times more risk of an employee coming forward and suing for sexual harassment today than just a few years ago.
So, what are steps employers should be doing today. Review your anti-harassment policy! Is the language clear on what is prohibited by your company? Does the policy make it easy for an employee to report an incident should it occur? A policy should be reviewed often to make sure it is still applicable to your company standards and relevant to changes in law.
How investigations are done was also a hot topic during this session. Who handles your investigations and are they properly trained? Will that person know the rules, how to remain unbiased, and deliver a summary report of findings that won’t put the company at risk? If you are not sure of those answers, you will want to start thinking of that now, before anyone comes forward with a compliant. Once a complaint comes forward, how quickly and efficiently your company handles that complaint will be a big focus to any jury.
Most employers do an annual anti-harassment training for employees, but that information may not be retained with such a long span in-between training. You can help your employees remember the details by making your policy visible and review it at your quarterly meetings, staff meetings, or when your team is together. Finding ways to review that information often will help in harassment prevention.
Employers want to protect their employees from harassment and it is their legal obligation, but what worked years ago may not enough today. Make sure you have a clearly defined policy and that you are training your employees regularly on anti-harassment. If you are not prepared for what to do if a compliant comes forward, plan that now. Don’t be caught off guard or unaware of the important steps you need to take to protect the employee, the accused, the witness(s), and the employer. Finally, train your employees often. The more you can reinforce your stand on harassment prevention, the better off your company will be.
OmniaHR provides anti-harassment trainings, policy creations, and harassment investigations. If you would like more information, please reach out to us today.