We all know the importance of having a harassment policy in place; a well written and clear policy that is regularly communicated ensures that all employees and managers are aware of what is and is not acceptable behavior, is aware of the consequences for violating the policy, and know what the steps are for filing a complaint.
A common question that arises when drafting a harassment policy, is how specific do you need to be? In last week’s blog post, we discussed potential issues that may arise when your harassment policy requires specific behaviors that, according to the NLRB, may restrict an employee’s Section 7 rights. Just as important as being too specific, potentially infringing on an employee’s rights, is the danger of being overly broad.
A harassment policy that is too vague can lead to misinterpretation of what is not acceptable behavior, confusion as to what an employee can/should do when they have a grievance, and can result in managers who are uncertain as to how to effectively manage a situation of harassment. A broad policy is useless to employers and employees alike, and can result in a lack of consistency in how situations are handled in the event of a harassment complaint.
Be simple, but be clear and direct in your policy. The less you allow for interpretation and perception, the less likely are the chances that your employees will misinterpret and violate the policy. Without clear expectations, you run the risk of your employees wandering into grey territory, into the dangerous zone of what may be deemed unlawful.
Clearly define certain terms such as “severe” as what one person may deem a simple conversation another may view as harassing behavior. Having clear expectations in place ensures that your organization is protected and is your first line of defense when dealing with a harassment case.
Follow along next week as we discuss the top components that every anti-harassment should have, including some of the important expectations that should be clear and concise.