Table of Contents

I. Introduction

An effective anti-harassment policy clearly defines unacceptable behavior, protects diverse groups, outlines accessible reporting procedures with guaranteed confidentiality, and details fair consequences for violations. Regular training and policy updates ensure a safe and inclusive work environment.

Topictics

Here are the best practices for anti-harassment policies:

  1. Include a broad definition of harassment.
  2. Identify all protected categories under applicable law.
  3. Prohibit harassment, including verbal, physical, and online harassment.
  4. Outline clear and easy-to-follow reporting procedures.
  5. Protect the confidentiality of all reports of harassment.
  6. Investigate all claims of harassment promptly and thoroughly.
  7. Take appropriate disciplinary action against harassers.
  8. Train all employees on the anti-harassment policy and how to prevent and recognize harassment.
  9. Review the policy regularly to ensure that it is up-to-date and effective.

An effective anti-harassment policy should be:

  • Comprehensive: The policy should cover all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, racial harassment, and disability harassment.
  • Clear and concise: The policy should be written in clear, easy-to-understand language.
  • Accessible: The policy should be accessible to all employees, regardless of their job title, language proficiency, or disability.
  • Enforceable: The policy should be consistently enforced, and employees should be aware of the consequences of violating the policy.
  • Zero tolerance: A zero-tolerance harassment policy is an anti-harassment policy that states that any form of harassment will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. This policy sends a clear message to employees that the company takes harassment seriously and will not tolerate it.

II. What is Harassment?

Painting of a Workplace
Painting of a Workplace

Harassment is any unwelcome or uninvited behavior repeated several times for no purpose other than to insult, intimidate, torment, abuse, or annoy someone, thereby creating discomfort for an individual or generating an uncomfortable workplace. Harassment can be verbal, physical, or non-verbal, and it can occur in person, online, or over the phone.

III. What is an anti-harassment policy?

An anti-harassment policy is a written document that defines harassment, prohibits it in all forms, and outlines the consequences for violating the policy. It should be communicated to all employees and reviewed regularly to ensure that it is up-to-date and effective.

IV. Why is it Important to have an Anti-harassment Policy?

An anti-harassment policy is important because it:

  • Creates a safe and respectful work environment for all employees.
  • Deters harassment and misconduct.
  • Provides clear guidance to employees on what constitutes harassment and what to do if they are harassed.
  • Protects employers from legal liability.

Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment

V. Developing Anti-Harassment Policy: 9 Effective Steps

Step 1: Define Harassment

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When defining harassment in an anti-harassment policy, it is important to be clear, concise, and comprehensive. The policy should define both quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment and identify all protected categories under applicable law.

Quid pro quo harassment is relatively straightforward to define. It occurs when someone offers or denies a job benefit (such as a promotion, raise, or job assignment) based on whether the other person submits to sexual advances or requests.

Hostile work environment harassment is more complex to define, but there are a few key elements that should be included in the policy definition:

  • Unwelcome conduct: The conduct must be unwelcome to the recipient. This means that the recipient must have expressed that the conduct is unwelcome, either verbally or through their conduct.
  • Severe or pervasive conduct: The conduct must be severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile work environment. This means the conduct must be more than just a few isolated incidents.
  • Objective standard: The conduct must be objectively offensive to a reasonable person. This means that the conduct must be offensive to someone of ordinary sensibilities.

In addition to quid pro quo and hostile work environment harassment, the policy should also identify any other types of harassment that are prohibited. This may include harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Here is an example of a comprehensive definition of harassment that could be included in an anti-harassment policy:

Harassment is any unwelcome or uninvited behavior repeated several times for no purpose other than to insult, intimidate, torment, abuse, or annoy someone, thereby creating discomfort for an individual or generating an uncomfortable workplace. Harassment can be verbal, physical, or non-verbal, and it can occur in person, online, or over the phone.

Example

By clearly defining harassment in the anti-harassment policy, employers can help to ensure that all employees understand what constitutes prohibited behavior. This can help to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place, and it can also help to ensure that employees know what to do if they are harassed.

Step 2: Prohibit Harassment

The second step in developing an anti-harassment policy is to state that harassment of any kind is prohibited clearly. This includes both verbal and physical harassment, as well as harassment that occurs in person, online, or over the phone.

The policy should also prohibit retaliation against employees who report harassment or cooperate in a harassment investigation. Retaliation can include adverse actions such as demotion, termination, or other forms of workplace harassment.

It is important to emphasize that the anti-harassment policy applies to all employees, regardless of their job title, position, or seniority. The policy should also make it clear that harassment will not be tolerated and that violators of the policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

Here is an example of a statement that could be included in an anti-harassment policy prohibiting harassment and retaliation:

Prohibition of Harassment and Retaliation: [Employer Name] prohibits harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability harassment, and age harassment. Harassment is any unwelcome or uninvited behavior repeated several times for no purpose other than to insult, intimidate, torment, abuse, or annoy someone, thereby creating discomfort for an individual or generating an uncomfortable workplace. Harassment can be verbal, physical, or non-verbal, and it can occur in person, online, or over the phone.

Example

[Employer Name] also prohibits retaliation against employees who report harassment or cooperate in a harassment investigation. Retaliation is any adverse action taken against an employee because the employee reported harassment or cooperated in a harassment investigation.

Example

Employers can help create a safe and respectful work environment for all employees by clearly prohibiting harassment and retaliation in the anti-harassment policy.

Step 3: Provide Examples of Harassment

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The third step in developing an anti-harassment policy is to provide examples of harassment to help employees understand what constitutes prohibited behavior. These examples should be specific and relevant to the workplace.

Here are some examples of harassment that could be included in an anti-harassment policy:

1. Sexual harassment:

  1. Making unwanted sexual advances or requests.
  2. Telling sexual jokes or stories.
  3. Displaying sexually suggestive images or objects.
  4. Touching someone sexually without their consent.
  5. Asking about someone’s sex life or sexual preferences.

2. Racial harassment:

  1. Using racial slurs or insults.
  2. Making racist jokes or stories.
  3. Displaying racist symbols or images.
  4. Excluding someone from activities or social groups because of their race.

3. Disability harassment:

  1. Making fun of someone’s disability.
  2. Using derogatory terms to refer to someone with a disability.
  3. Refusing to make reasonable accommodations for someone with a disability.
  4. Excluding someone from activities or social groups because of their disability.

4. Age harassment:

  1. Making fun of someone’s age.
  2. Using derogatory terms to refer to someone because of their age.
  3. Making assumptions about someone’s abilities based on their age.
  4. Excluding someone from activities or social groups because of their age.

By providing examples of harassment in the anti-harassment policy, employers can help to ensure that all employees understand what constitutes prohibited behavior. This can help to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place, and it can also help to ensure that employees know what to do if they are harassed.

Step 4: Explain the Consequences of Harassment

The fourth step in developing an anti-harassment policy is to explain the consequences of harassment for both the complainant and the alleged harasser. Employees should know that harassment will not be tolerated and that violators of the policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

1. Consequences for the complainant:

Employees who report harassment should be aware that they may experience some negative consequences, such as:

  1. Retaliation from the alleged harasser or their supporters
  2. Social isolation or ostracism from other employees
  3. Damage to their reputation or career
  4. Emotional distress, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

2. Consequences for the alleged harasser:

Alleged harassers who are found to have violated the anti-harassment policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment. Other disciplinary actions may include:

  1. Demotion
  2. Suspension
  3. Written reprimand
  4. Counseling
  5. Legal action

The severity of the disciplinary action will depend on the nature of the harassment and the employee’s disciplinary history.

By explaining the consequences of harassment for both the complainant and the alleged harasser in the anti-harassment policy, employers can help to deter harassment and create a safe and respectful work environment for all employees.

Step 5: Establish a Reporting Procedure

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The fifth step in developing an anti-harassment policy is establishing a clear and easy-to-follow procedure for reporting harassment. Employees should know who to report harassment to and what to expect once they have made a report.

The reporting procedure should be designed to protect the confidentiality of both the complainant and the alleged harasser. Employers should ensure employees are not intimidated or retaliated against for reporting harassment.

1. Key elements of an effective reporting procedure:

  • Multiple reporting options: Employees should have multiple options for reporting harassment, such as reporting to their supervisor, HR representative, or another trusted employee.
  • Confidentiality: The reporting procedure should protect the confidentiality of both the complainant and the alleged harasser. Employers should keep all reports of harassment confidential unless disclosure is necessary to investigate or resolve the complaint.
  • Prompt and thorough investigations: All reports of harassment should be investigated promptly and thoroughly. Employers should designate a trained and impartial investigator to conduct the investigation.
  • Appropriate disciplinary action: If the investigation finds harassment has occurred, the employer should take appropriate disciplinary action against the harasser. This may include penalties ranging from disciplinary action to being fired.
  • Anti-retaliation protection: Employers should protect employees from retaliation for reporting harassment or cooperating in a harassment investigation.

Implementing Effective Reporting and Investigation Procedures in the Workplace

Here is an example of a reporting procedure that could be included in an anti-harassment policy:

2. Reporting Procedure:

Employees who experience or witness harassment should report it to one of the following individuals:

  • Supervisor
  • HR Representative
  • CEO

Employees can also report harassment anonymously by calling the company’s hotline or submitting an online report.

By establishing a clear and easy-to-follow reporting procedure, employers can help to ensure that all employees feel comfortable reporting harassment and that all reports of harassment are investigated promptly and thoroughly. This can help to prevent harassment from occurring in the first place and to create a safe and respectful work environment for all employees.

Step 6: Provide Training on Harassment

The sixth step in developing an anti-harassment policy is to train all employees on the anti-harassment policy and how to prevent and recognize harassment. The training should be mandatory for all employees, regardless of their job title or position.

The training should cover the following topics:

  • What is harassment? Employees should learn the definition of harassment, including the different types of harassment (e.g., sexual harassment, racial harassment, disability harassment, age harassment, etc.) and examples of prohibited behavior.
  • What are the consequences of harassment? Employees should understand the potential consequences of harassment for both the complainant and the alleged harasser, including disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
  • How to prevent harassment? Employees should learn how to identify and prevent harassment by creating a respectful work environment, avoiding making offensive jokes or comments, and intervening if they see harassment happening.
  • How to report harassment? Employees should know how to report harassment if they experience or witness it. This includes knowing who to report to and what to expect after making a report.
  • Bystander intervention: Employees can learn how to intervene if they see harassment happening safely. This may involve speaking to the harasser, supporting the victim, or reporting the incident to a supervisor or HR representative.
  • Unconscious bias: Employees can learn about unconscious bias and how it can lead to harassment. They can also learn how to mitigate unconscious bias in the workplace.
  • Microaggressions: Employees can learn about microaggressions and how they can create a hostile work environment. They can also learn how to respond to microaggressions respectfully and professionally.

By providing training on harassment, employers can help to create a more aware and respectful workplace. Employees who are trained on harassment are more likely to recognize and prevent harassment, and they are also more likely to report harassment if they experience or witness it.

1. Tips for providing effective harassment training:

  1. Make the training mandatory for all employees, regardless of their job title or position.
  2. Use various training methods, such as lectures, discussions, and role-playing exercises.
  3. Make the training interactive and engaging.
  4. Provide employees with opportunities to ask questions and get clarification.
  5. Update the training regularly to reflect changes in the law and the workplace.

By following these tips, employers can provide effective harassment training that will help to create a safer and more respectful workplace for all employees.

Step 7: Review and Update your Policy Regularly

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The seventh step in developing an anti-harassment policy is to review and update it regularly to ensure it is up-to-date and effective. The policy should be reviewed at least annually or more often if there are law or workplace changes.

1. Why is it important to review and update your anti-harassment policy regularly?

There are several reasons why it is important to review and update your anti-harassment policy regularly:

  • To ensure compliance with the law. Laws governing harassment change constantly, and ensuring that your policy complies with all applicable laws is important.
  • To address new forms of harassment. New forms of harassment are always emerging, such as online harassment and cyberbullying. It is important to ensure that your policy covers all forms of harassment.
  • To reflect changes in the workplace. The workplace is constantly changing, and it is important to make sure that your policy reflects your current culture and climate.

2. How to review and update your anti-harassment policy?

When reviewing and updating your anti-harassment policy, you should consider the following:

  • Get input from employees. Encourage employees to provide feedback on the anti-harassment policy and suggest any changes they think are needed.
  • Consult with an attorney. An attorney can help ensure your anti-harassment policy complies with all applicable laws.
  • Review the policies of other organizations. You can learn a lot by reviewing the anti-harassment policies of other organizations. Pay attention to what other organizations are doing well and what they could improve upon.

Reviewing and updating your anti-harassment policy regularly can help ensure that all employees feel safe and respected in the workplace.

Once you have reviewed your anti-harassment policy, you should make any necessary updates. You should also distribute the updated policy to all employees and train them on the new policy.

Step 8: Communicate the Policy to all Employees

The eighth step in developing an anti-harassment policy is to communicate the policy to all employees in writing and during training. Employers should also post the policy in a visible location in the workplace.

1. Why is it important to communicate the anti-harassment policy to all employees?

There are several reasons why it is important to communicate the anti-harassment policy to all employees:

  • To ensure that all employees are aware of the policy. Employees must follow a policy that they know about.
  • To reinforce the company’s commitment to a safe and respectful workplace. Communicating the anti-harassment policy sends a message to employees that the company takes harassment seriously and is committed to creating a workplace where everyone feels safe and respected.
  • To provide employees with information on how to prevent and report harassment. The anti-harassment policy should provide employees with information on what constitutes harassment, how to prevent harassment, and how to report harassment if they experience or witness it.

2. How do we communicate the anti-harassment policy to all employees?

There are several ways to communicate the anti-harassment policy to all employees:

  • Provide employees with a copy of the policy in writing. This can be done by distributing the policy during training, emailing it to employees, or posting it on the company’s intranet.
  • Post the policy to your website and social media platforms.
  • Communicate and discuss the policy during employee training sessions.
  • Post the policy in a visible location in the workplace. This can be done in a break room, a common area, or employee restrooms.
  • Send out regular reminders about the policy. This can be done through email, the company newsletter, or other internal communication channels.
  • Ensure the policy is written clearly and concisely, avoiding legal jargon and technical language.
  • Translate the policy into all languages spoken by employees.
  • Make the policy accessible to employees with disabilities. For example, you may need to provide the policy in large print or audio formats.
  • Encourage employees to ask questions about the policy. You can do this by holding Q&A sessions or creating a forum where employees can post questions.

By communicating the anti-harassment policy to all employees, employers can help to create a safe and respectful workplace for everyone.

Step 9: Monitor the Effectiveness of the Policy

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The ninth and final step in developing an anti-harassment policy is monitoring its effectiveness to ensure that it prevents and addresses harassment in the workplace. This can be done by tracking the number of harassment complaints, conducting employee surveys, and interviewing employees about their experiences with harassment.

1. Why is it important to monitor the effectiveness of the anti-harassment policy?

There are several reasons why it is important to monitor the effectiveness of the anti-harassment policy:

  • To identify any gaps in the policy. By tracking the number of harassment complaints and conducting surveys of employees, employers can identify gaps in the anti-harassment policy and make necessary updates.
  • Employers can ensure that the anti-harassment policy is followed and enforced by interviewing employees about their experiences with harassment.
  • Employers can track the number of harassment complaints and the results of employee surveys to measure the company’s progress in creating a safe and respectful workplace.

2. How to monitor the effectiveness of the anti-harassment policy?

There are several ways to monitor the effectiveness of the anti-harassment policy:

  • Track the number of harassment complaints. Employers should track the number of harassment complaints that they receive each year. This data can be used to identify trends in harassment and to measure the effectiveness of the anti-harassment policy.
  • Conduct surveys of employees. Employers can conduct surveys of employees to get feedback on the anti-harassment policy and to learn about their experiences with harassment. This feedback can be used to improve the policy and identify areas where the company needs to do more to prevent and address harassment.
  • Employers can interview employees who have experienced or witnessed harassment to learn more about their experiences and get feedback on how the company can improve its response to harassment.

By monitoring the effectiveness of the anti-harassment policy, employers can help to ensure that it is preventing and addressing harassment in the workplace.

By following these nine steps, employers can develop an anti-harassment policy that will help to create a safe and respectful work environment for all employees.

VI. Legal Requirements for Anti-Harassment Policies

  1. Federal law prohibits employers from engaging in discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. This prohibition extends to sexual harassment.
  2. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in employment applicable to all employers with 15 or more employees.
  3. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) prohibits discrimination based on age applicable to all employers with 20 or more employees.
  4. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.
  5. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits discrimination based on genetic information in employment and applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.
  6. Sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII, can take two forms: quid pro quo and hostile environment harassment.
  7. Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor demands sexual favors from an employee in exchange for a job benefit or threatens the employee with a job detriment if they refuse.
  8. Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome sexual conduct that creates a hostile or abusive work environment. For example, a supervisor might make sexual jokes or comments to an employee or sexually touch an employee.

In addition to federal law, many states and municipalities have their own laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment in the workplace. These laws may provide broader protections than federal law. They may also cover additional types of harassment, such as harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Employers must comply with all applicable laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment. This includes developing and implementing an effective anti-harassment policy.

Employers who fail to comply with their legal obligations under anti-harassment laws may be penalized, including fines, back pay, and injunctive relief.

A. Law Nitty Gritty

There are a few important law nitty gritties to remember when developing and implementing an anti-harassment policy.

  • Liability for harassment by supervisors. Employers are vicariously liable for harassment by supervisors. This means that the employer is liable for the harassment even if the employer did not know about the harassment or did not take any steps to stop it.
  • Liability for harassment by co-workers. Employers can be held liable for harassment by co-workers if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take reasonable steps to stop it.
  • Affirmative defense. Employers can avoid liability for harassment by co-workers if they can prove that they took reasonable steps to prevent and correct the harassment promptly.
  • Retaliation. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report harassment or cooperate in a harassment investigation.

Employers should consult an attorney to ensure their anti-harassment policy complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

VII. Best Practices for HR Professionals

Painting of workplace

Here are some best practices for HR professionals:

  • Stay up-to-date on the latest laws and regulations related to HR.
  • Build relationships with employees at all levels of the company.
  • Be fair and impartial in all of your dealings with employees.
  • Be confidential and discreet in your handling of employee information.
  • Be proactive in identifying and addressing potential HR issues.

HR professionals are vital in creating a safe and respectful workplace for all employees. By following the best practices outlined above, HR professionals can help to build a culture of diversity and inclusion, address harassment and discrimination, and protect the rights of all employees.

VIII. Legal Resources

Where to find legal guidance on anti-harassment policies?

Employers and employees can find legal guidance on anti-harassment policies from a variety of sources, including:

  • Attorneys: Attorneys can advise on developing and implementing anti-harassment policies and responding to harassment allegations.
  • Government agencies: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor (DOL) offer various resources on anti-harassment laws and policies.
  • Non-profit organizations: Some non-profit organizations, such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, provide resources on anti-harassment policies and training.

A. Useful Legal Resources for Employers and Employees

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, including laws prohibiting harassment. The EEOC website provides a wealth of information on anti-harassment laws and policies, including:
  1. The EEOC’s Anti-Harassment Policy and Compliance Guide
  2. The EEOC’s Factsheets on Sexual Harassment and Other Forms of Discrimination
  • Department of Labor (DOL): The DOL enforces wage and hour laws and laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The DOL website provides a variety of resources on anti-harassment laws and policies, including:
  1. The DOL’s Fact Sheet on Sexual Harassment
  2. The DOL’s Guidance on Harassment in the Workplace
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: The National Sexual Assault Hotline provides a safe haven for survivors of sexual assault and their loved ones. The Hotline website also provides information on sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence.
  • National Sexual Violence Resource Center: The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) provides resources and support to survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones. The NSVRC website also provides information on sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence.
  • The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL): The NCSL tracks state anti-harassment laws and provides information on state anti-harassment laws and policies.

B. Additional Resources

  • The American Bar Association (ABA): The ABA provides a variety of resources on anti-harassment laws and policies, including:
  1. The ABA’s Model Anti-Harassment Policy and Guide for Employers
  2. The ABA’s Resource Guide for Employees on Sexual Harassment
  1. SHRM’s Anti-Harassment Policy Toolkit
  2. SHRM’s Guide to Preventing and Responding to Harassment

IX. FAQs

1. How can I use data and analytics to improve my anti-harassment policy?

You can use data and analytics to improve your anti-harassment policy by tracking and analyzing trends in harassment complaints. This data can help you to identify areas where the policy may need to be strengthened or updated. For example, suppose you see that a certain department is receiving many harassment complaints. In that case, you may want to provide additional training to employees in that department.

You can also use data and analytics to identify patterns in harassment behavior. You can use this information to craft more precise prevention and intervention strategies. For example, suppose you see that a certain type of harassment is common. In that case, you may want to develop a training program specifically on that topic.

2. How can I create a more restorative justice-based approach to anti-harassment?

A restorative justice-based approach to anti-harassment focuses on repairing the harm caused by harassment and building relationships between the people involved. Here are a few ideas for creating a more restorative justice-based approach to anti-harassment:

  1. Use mediation or other forms of conflict resolution to help the people involved in a harassment incident reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
  2. Develop a process for the alleged harasser to apologize to the victim.
  3. Provide opportunities for the victim to participate in the disciplinary process against the alleged harasser.
  4. Offer supportive services to both the victim and the alleged harasser, such as counseling or training on respectful workplace behavior.

By taking these steps, you can help to create a more just and healing workplace for everyone.

Junaid Khan

Junaid Khan is an expert on harassment laws since 2009. He is a passionate advocate for victims of harassment and works to educate the public about harassment laws and prevention. He is also a sought-after speaker on human resource management, relationships, parenting, and the importance of respecting others.

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