Best Practices for Preventing and Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
J. Kent Staffing is pleased to share this white paper authored by LaRona Mondt, Esq. and Wayne Penebaker, Esq., corporate attorneys with Messner Reeves LLP. Messner Reeves is a Denver-based full-service business law firm.
Under federal law, employers must prevent and correct instances of harassment in the workplace. Employers need to actively work at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and addressing it as it arrises. As it stands, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has provided guidance for employers on best practices for preventing and addressing sexual harassment. The EEOC set forth the following guidelines to ensure the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace.
EEOC Core Principles to Follow
The EEOC identified core principles that have proven effective for addressing harassment in the workplace. Incorporating the principles, employers should:
- Create a culture of consistent accountability and committed and engaged leadership;
- Enforce strong and comprehensive harassment policies;
- Implement trusted and accessible complaint procedures; and
- Mandate regular and interactive training for employees, supervisors, and leadership.
Following the guidance of the EEOC, many employers have already begun applying these principles to create a safer work environment. No law, state or federal, requires the adoption of these principles. But their application improves sexual harassment prevention and increases compliance with existing federal employment discrimination laws.
Actively Preventing Sexual Harassment
Implementing the EEOC’s core principles begins with the leadership of the company. Above all, senior leaders must create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated. Consequently, with this support intact, employers should develop an extensive anti-sexual harassment policy. Further, by implementing these policies, companies will actively work at preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
- The policy should include easy to follow complaint procedures that ensure all employees can report an incident of sexual harassment without fear of retribution. Likewise, the policy should be easy to understand and follow to ensure compliance.
- Write and distribute the policy to employees upon adoption, hire, amendment, and at least once annually.
- To improve a policy’s effectiveness, employers should require employee participation in annual training which educates employees on the definition of harassment, review the established policy, and walk through the complaint procedures.
- Employers should consider having separate training for supervisors and managers. Doing this will emphasize the culture against harassment and the unique roles and obligations supervisors have in this area.
- Also, employers should direct their human resources department or other personnel to actively review and manage harassment prevention strategies.
- Finally, employers must impose discipline in a prompt, consistent, and proportionate manner to address and deter instances of sexual harassment.