This month we have been discussing harassment policies; why having one is important, what language to avoid in an anti-harassment policy, and the dangers of having an overly broad harassment policy. There are many directions you can go with your organization’s anti-harassment policy, but regardless of size, industry, or location, there are a few vital components that every harassment policy should include.

Zero Tolerance

Often a separate component of a manual/handbook, there should always be a statement that clearly states that the company will not tolerate any incidents of harassment, and any such situations will be handled in a timely and fair manner. When it comes to harassment there are many “gray areas,” you want to make certain that this is not one of them and all employees know what lines are not to be crossed.

Definition of What is not Acceptable Behavior

Provide your employees a clear definition of what is/is not tolerated and provide examples of what is not deemed acceptable behavior. A vague description is one of the worst things you can have in your policy, potentially allowing employees to perceive what is not acceptable behavior rather than giving them a black and white clarification.

Employee and Manager Duty

Employees and managers alike have responsibilities when it comes to reporting harassment in the workplace. Employees who have witnessed or been subject to harassment have a duty to report the incident(s) in a timely an accurate manner. Managers and HR have a duty to follow the proper reporting procedures to ensure that necessary investigations and disciplinary action is administered in an equally appropriate manner.

Grievance/Complaint Procedure

Every step of this process should be clearly laid out for both employees and managers. From start to finish, it is important that all affected parties know what they are expected to do, what the process for any investigation will be, and how such situations will be rectified.

Confidentiality and Retaliation

To sum up your harassment policy, ensure employees that any reports of harassment will be kept confidential, as far as reasonably possible. Your employees should feel safe and comfortable coming to you with any reports of harassment. Additionally, state that any bona fide complaint will not result in retaliation, and retaliation will not be tolerated.