Hostile Work Environment Law & Related Topics

Protect And Clarify – A Strong Workplace Harassment Policy Is Essential

Personal and professional communication in the 21st century office can make or break a career. Present laws have evolved into a set of rules that have become highly strict in monitoring would-be instigators of workplace harassment as a result of the many cases of sexual harassment, discrimination in the office and workplace bullying. However, some believe that the law has gone too far, to the point that it may no longer truly protect the innocent. To counter this, it would be advisable to have a workplace harassment policy in place, amongst other things, to protect your company from frivolous lawsuits.

There was a time when incidents of workplace sexual harassment, discrimination in the office and other forms of workplace harassment were virtually left unchecked by employers. Many victims were afraid to speak out and complain for fear of losing their jobs. Because of the lack of legislation on the issue at the time, complaints were on the basis of he says, she says and very hard to prove. As such, many did not bother to pursue grievances. A lot of harassment victims either shut up or looked for another job.

Today, federal as well as state laws have taken an uncompromising stand against perpetrators of workplace harassment to emphasize protection of victims. Unfortunately, because of this focus on the rights of the victim, it has become open season on unwary people who may be wrongfully accused of harassment.

The damage is not limited to the accused employee but involves the employer as well. Many cases of harassment cite the company for a perceived neglect to punish the wrong doer. There are cases where a discontented or former employees has filed harassment complaint just to make life difficult for the employer. Even if not proven guilty, a company may be dragged into court litigations that take time and money.

The Department of Crime Control and Public Safety of North Carolina has forbidden any employee from talking or acting in any manner that is contrary to the unlawful workplace harassment laws. Such policy also protects the complainant from possible reprisals. Complaints as to violations of this policy are to be acted upon promptly through an impartial investigation.

Virginias Department of Human Resources has also made a clear cut policy on the prosecution of workplace harassment cases by requiring victims to immediately report the harassment. It also provided a procedure for reporting work harassment cases and required the complainant (job applicants or existing employees) to file a report of the incident to the heads of the agency or the human resource office. What makes the policy a great help to victims is the provision discouraging and not requiring the victim to file the harassment case with the defendant (if he is among the officers mandated to receive such complaints).

It is important to prevent incidents of possible cases of harassment by enacting a practical and effective workplace harassment policy. A policy that clearly states how employees should act in case they fall victim to harassment keeps everyone in check. Such a policy also helps in the prevention of harassment cases because employees become aware not only of how they can be guilty of harassment but also of what may happen to them if there are complaints filed against them. Even if the policy does not prevent a harassment case, it is still indicative of the companys intention to become proactive in protecting its employees from harassment.

When creating a policy on harassment for your company, ensure that it conforms to existing federal and state laws. It would be best if legal advice, as well as employee input is taken into consideration when coming up with the policy. It is also very important to make sure that all employees, present and future, are made aware of the details of the policy to ensure that the objectives of the policy is met, which is to prevent harassment in the first place.

The benefits of having a policy on harassment are clear and it does not take a lot of resources to create and implement one. After all it is better to be safe than sorry.

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