Workplace Anti-Harassment Policies
- Human Resources
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 11/21/2023
Table of Contents
Creating a positive work environment is essential for any business, and an anti-harassment policy can be an important tool in maintaining that environment and mitigating the risk of claims of harassment under federal, state, and local laws. This policy precisely outlines what behavior is unacceptable in the workplace and the types of discipline that can result from inappropriate or unwelcome behaviors.
It's essential to have such policies clearly defined and communicated throughout the organization to ensure everyone knows what conduct is expected at work. When created properly, anti-harassment policies can help foster an environment of respect and safety in the workplace — both for you and your employees.
What Is an Anti-Harassment Policy?
An anti-harassment policy, or non-harassment policy, is a written set of guidelines communicating an organization’s policies and procedures related to preventing workplace harassment, including but not limited to what is prohibited behavior, how to report prohibited behavior, procedures in response to a report of harassment, potential consequences, and policy against retaliation in compliance with applicable laws. It establishes the standards of conduct expected from employees and helps to ensure everyone has been made aware of their rights and responsibilities. A typical anti-harassment policy covers various forms of harassment, such as verbal, physical, online, and sexual harassment. It also should include a reporting procedure.
For business owners, implementing an anti-harassment policy is a crucial step in creating a safe and respectful work environment for employees. For instance, a business owner may include in their policy that any form of harassment will not be tolerated, and employees found to have engaged in harassing conduct will face disciplinary action, up to and including termination. This proactive measure can help employers take proper actions quickly when claims of harassment are brought to light and can help defend legal actions from employees who feel harassed while at work.
Why Is It Important To Have an Anti-Harassment Policy?
Responsible employers know that having an anti-harassment policy in place is vital. It helps protect your employees and your business operations. Companies that do not have a compliant policy in place risk a higher possibility of harassment incidents within the workplace, which can negatively impact productivity, morale, and, ultimately, the bottom line. Some states require specific language in an anti-harassment policy and/or training requirements, meaning non-compliance could result in fines and penalties. Notably, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends that all employers distribute a written anti-harassment policy to help mitigate liability under federal anti-discrimination laws.
By implementing a workplace anti-harassment policy, employees can be educated on what may constitute harassment and how to report incidents. Required training supports employees in knowing what is expected of them and the consequences for violating the policy. An effective anti-harassment policy communicates to your staff that your business takes harassment seriously and is committed to promoting a safe and respectful work environment for everyone.
Benefits of Anti-Harassment Policies
The benefits of non-harassment policies in the workplace cannot be overstated. Such policies can help improve employee morale and reduce the risk of costly lawsuits. It also provides a clear message to all employees that harassment will not be tolerated, which can help establish a culture of respect and inclusivity.
For employees, an anti-harassment policy can help provide a safe and supportive work environment free from discrimination or abuse. It promotes a sense of security, knowing that their employer will take reports of harassment seriously and that any reported incidents will be thoroughly investigated.
What Should an Anti-Harassment Policy Include?
Organizations should have a robust and comprehensive anti-harassment policy to help protect their business and employees. Consider utilizing an anti-harassment policy template to get started when drafting your company's anti-harassment policy.
What should a non-harassment policy include? A policy should contain the following sections:
- Statement of purpose: Begin your policy with a clear statement that the company will not tolerate any form of harassment and explain how this policy supports the prevention of harassment across the organization.
- Definition and examples: Provide a clear anti-harassment policy definition and list the different types of behavior included in this definition—list examples of the types of conduct prohibited by the workplace harassment policy. Include here additional protocols for different types of harassment, such as a sexual harassment policy, if those policies do not exist elsewhere.
- Roles and responsibilities: State that all employees are responsible for preventing harassment in the workplace. Outline any specific responsibilities designated employees, such as managers or supervisors, may have in your company's harassment prevention process.
- Escalation process: Outline the steps in the complaint process and thoroughly explain each step in detail. Include how employees can report harassment incidents to human resources and how their complaints will be handled. Describe where employees can find resources if they have experienced harassment and explain what steps the company will take to keep reports of harassment incidents confidential, when possible.
- Corporate commitment: Provide a detailed statement explaining the company's commitment to take corrective action if harassment has occurred and measures to prevent further harassment. Outline any progressive disciplinary action for your organization and include a statement that all incidents will be investigated promptly and thoroughly.
- Training and education: Document any harassment prevention training provided to employees and include details on when and how that training should be implemented. Provide resources to managers on conducting the proper training at the appropriate times.
- Retaliation prevention: Provide an official company statement that retaliation against anyone who reports harassment or participates in an investigation will not be tolerated. Describe any applicable disciplinary action and provide an example of when and how it might be implemented to prevent retaliation in the workplace.
- Legal rights and protections: Describe employees' legal rights, protections, and reporting options under applicable local, state, and federal laws regarding harassment incidents.
Remember that if you are drafting your own anti-harassment policy, you should have legal counsel review it before distributing it to your employees.
Tips for Creating Your Own Anti-Harassment Policy
By taking a proactive approach to preventing harassment in the workplace, employers can help create a safe and productive work environment that benefits everyone. To develop a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that generates positive effects in the workplace, consider these tips:
- Start with a thorough assessment: Begin by conducting a comprehensive assessment of your workplace culture, policies, and practices to identify any areas where harassment might be occurring or where there might be opportunities to prevent it from happening in the first place. This can include reviewing employee feedback, conducting focus groups or surveys, and reviewing HR data such as complaint records and turnover rates.
- Develop a clear policy: Once you have identified areas of concern, develop a comprehensive anti-harassment policy tailored to your company's needs and culture. The policy should define what constitutes harassment, provide specific examples, outline the complaint process, and establish consequences for violations.
- Communicate the policy effectively: Once the policy is developed, communicate it to all employees, making sure they understand what is expected of them and the consequences of violating the policy. This can include providing training, posting the policy in visible locations, and including it in employee handbooks.
- Enforce the policy consistently: Ensure that the policy is enforced consistently and promptly and that complaints are handled sensitively and confidentially, when possible. Additionally, ensure those who violate the policy are appropriately disciplined, up to and including termination of employment.
- Promote a culture of respect: Finally, promote a culture of respect and inclusivity in your workplace that encourages all employees to treat each other with dignity and respect, regardless of differences in background or status.
Protect Your Business and Employees From Workplace Harassment
A comprehensive anti-harassment policy is crucial to establishing a safe and productive workplace. If allowed to go unchecked, workplace harassment can inflict lasting psychological, emotional, and financial damage to those who experience it. A zero-tolerance workplace harassment policy can help build a positive organizational culture where employees feel safe bringing workplace issues to management.
To help ensure that your workplace harassment policy and procedure is legally compliant with any applicable local and state laws, work with HR experts, such as Paychex. HR services from Paychex can help you create and execute a policy tailored to your specific needs and culture, reflecting best practices in the field and consistent with applicable anti-discrimination laws. A solid anti-harassment policy can support and promote a culture of respect and inclusivity and create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected.