Janette is a manager at a small, locally-owned hardware store. Over the past few years, she has behaved inappropriately with her male employees, making sexually derogatory remarks towards them, constantly attempts to get them to go out on dates with her, and slaps them on the backside at work.

The Company’s handbook is roughly 10 pages long, and primarily focuses on employee benefits. It lacks a harassment policy or any section detailing expectations for appropriate conduct. Neither Janette or her employees have been trained on what is/is not acceptable behavior, nor have they been provided with the resources to file a complaint. Who is at fault?

Harassment comes in many, many forms. Sexual harassment is one of the most popularly discussed types of harassment, but harassment pertaining to age, race/color/origins, religions, disability, that can manifest through discrimination, retaliation, or the creation of a hostile work environment are also common types of harassment that are prevalent in today’s workplace.

Aside from the plethora of legal reasons to have a harassment policy in place (e.g., certain states require anti-harassment training for managers, various state and federal laws, Title VII’s ban on sexual discrimination, the EEOC strongly recommends having one in place, etc.), the primary need to have a strong anti-harassment policy in place is to minimize risk and liability to your organization.

With a solid policy in place, your employees know what is expected of them, what behaviors will not be tolerated, what the consequences of such actions will be, will know what steps to take (complaint and grievance procedures) in the event of a harassment situation, and will have the resources necessary to prevent such instances from occurring in the first place.

Follow along this month as we address various harassment-related topics including: how the NLRB plays a role in harassment policies, the dangers of having an overly broad harassment policy, and the components you need for a strong harassment policy for your organization.