Anti-harassment training should be provided to all employees and managers. Such training is mandatory for AVB staff, and certificates are awarded upon completion.

By Jenny Rice, AVB Inc.

All companies, no matter how big or small, should have an anti-harassment policy in place. This helps protect your business and provides information to your employees on what to do if they become a victim of harassment or a witness to harassment.

There are many different types of harassment, and as business owners and managers we are all responsible for responding to potential harassment in the workplace. In order to have a solid policy in place your employee handbook should detail a number of things. First, include a statement of intent, which can be brief but should explain the purpose of the policy, and the company’s dedication to maintaining a professional work environment that treats all people with respect. The statement should promote an atmosphere of equal opportunity and clearly prohibit discrimination and harassment.

Second, define who is covered by the policy. Third, define what harassment is and the different types of workplace harassment.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The agency defines harassment as “Unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”

Examples of such conduct include offensive jokes, slurs, epithets, name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or even a non-employee, and the victim does not necessarily have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge or cooperating with an investigation.

Fourth and most important is to include the procedures to follow for reporting and investigating incidents. The reporting process should include who to report the incident to and options for the person who reported the potential harassment. This policy should be distributed to all employees, and all employees and managers should be provided anti-harassment training.

Many states are now requiring anti-harassment training for all managers and employees. Even if you are not in a state that mandates such training, or you are a small business with only a few employees, it is still recommended that you have a clear understanding of what harassment is and how to mitigate it in your business. Training employees and managers on how to handle harassment will protect your employees and your business.

As the EEOC says, “Prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace.”

Jenny Rice is Human Resource Manager of AVB Inc., publisher of YSN.