Implementing a Workplace Harassment Policy
Perhaps more than ever, today it is important that business owners provide harassment policies for the workplace. Harassment policies should have at least three components, being (1) a definition of harassment, (2) a blanket prohibition of any and all harassment (including sexual harassment), and (3) an easily-navigable process for victims of harassment to report incidents. A good harassment policy also describes what disciplinary measures apply to those who retaliate against an individual that registers a complaint alleging harassment in good faith. Additionally, a good harassment policy states that all complaints will be handled as confidentially as possible.
The definition of harassment should expressly include unlawful behavior in addition to behavior that may be considered unprofessional or discourteous. Moreover, the definition should clarify that harassment may be verbal, visual, physical, or of some other form. The definition or the prohibition portion of the harassment policy may also remind its readers that Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and the federal Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 each recognize workplace harassment as a form of employment discrimination. Specifically, discrimination based on race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, height, weight, or marital status will qualify as workplace harassment under state and federal law.
When describing the process for reporting an incident of harassment, the policy should identify several individuals who may receive and handle harassment complaints, if possible. At the very least, both a man and a woman should be identified. As a business owner, the goal is to resolve workplace harassment issues at the earliest stage possible and without court intervention or outside agency. Accordingly, employees must believe the process is effective and fair. If you fail to convince your employees you have a legitimate and reliable process for reporting harassment in the workplace, employees will not use it and harassment issues may escalate out of your control.
If you have questions about implementing a workplace harassment policy, do not hesitate to contact JLM Law Group.