Everything You Need To Know About Developing A Workplace Harassment Policy

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“I can’t take this anymore; I want to resign. Please accept my resignation letter.”, said one of the high performers of my team. Most managers might have come across this situation at least once. When asked what went wrong, I found out that the employee was being harassed at their work.

Every employer wants a positive work environment and productive employees. What if some of your employees are productive but are affecting the productivity of others by harassing them? The whole work culture gets affected by such behavior.

Every company, small or large, needs a policy for workplace harassment. Before you develop a policy, here’s what you need to know.

What’s Workplace Harassment?

Workplace harassment is defined as the improper conduct by an employee that is offensive to another employee. Simply, harassment can be defined as any kind of misconduct, misbehavior by any employee at the workplace or any work related event.

There are different types of behaviors that qualify as harassment.

Verbal Harassment – Repeated rude or offensive comments

Physical Harassment – Being hurtful physically, encroaching someone’s personal space.

Sexual Harassment – Any kinds of sexually suggestive remarks/ advances

Discrimination – Exclusion from group activities without a valid reason. Giving too little work or too much work based on factors like skin color, region, religion, gender, marital/relationship status, pregnancy, disability etc.

Why Develop A Workplace Harassment Policy?

There are instances where people easily have got away with their actions because of lack of a solid policy for workplace harassment. If this happens in your company it might lead to poor employee morale and might directly affect the reputation and productivity of the company.

To avoid these situations, you need a solid, zero-tolerance policy at your workplace for harassment.

Who Is The Policy For?

This is the part where you define who all are covered in the policy. Generally, all the employees, managers, chief executives, contract employees, clients, visitors, and volunteers should be covered.

What Should The policy Include?

The policy should cover any kind of harassment, be it verbal, physical, sexual harassment or any other form of discrimination.

Here’s a sample of what you can include in an anti-harassment policy at the workplace.

This zero-tolerance policy for workplace harassment applies to all the personnel, including employees, managers, chief executives, contract-based employees, visitors, clients, watchmen and volunteers.

Workplace harassment is a serious offense and any behavior to intentionally hurt any staff member will not be tolerated. Strict action will be taken against the harasser.

What Counts As Harassment?

Verbal Harassment

  • Making gestures with an intention of intimidating your colleagues
  • Making rude, offensive and hurtful remarks about someone
  • Interrupting an employee by yelling, screaming or by preventing them from talking to others.
  • Making statements that damage a person’s reputation
  • Not addressing the employees respectfully

Physical Harassment

  • Encroaching someone’s space with an intent to intimidate.
  • Hitting, pinching, punching, biting other employees
  • Intentionally blocking an employee’s way

Sexual Harassment

  • Passing lewd comments
  • Making obscene gestures
  • Unwanted touching or hugging
  • Sending/sharing sexually explicit content
  • Making repeated sexual advances, even after being turned down
  • Unwanted invitations to go out
  • Sending e-mails or messages with sexual overtones
  • Coercing employees under the threat of them losing the job
  • Contacting an employee after-hours with inappropriate requests
  • Stalking or sexual assault
  • Intrusive questions or comments about a person’s private life, clothing or physical appearance

Discrimination

  • Discriminating employees based on various factors like, skin color, religion, political opinions, gender, relationship status, pregnancy, age, sexual orientation, food choices etc.
  • Giving too little or too much work based on personal prejudices.
  • Denying promotions, training, access to basic resources
What To Do In Case Of Harassment?
  1. Approach the manager and give the details of the incident.
  2. If the manager is the one who harassed you, approach the Human Resources manager.
  3. Otherwise, send an official mail to the HR manager and your manager about the incident.

Note: In case of any false allegation, serious action will be taken. The employee affected by the allegations will have to be compensated.

How To Implement The Policy?

Developing a policy for workplace harassment is just a starting step. Implementing this policy and getting your employees to follow it is challenging, particularly when your workplace environment is toxic.

When we say toxic, it represents an environment where lewd and offensive comments are brushed off as jokes, but have the same negative affect on the staff and continue to affect their productivity.

In this kind of environment, a simple policy will not bring any change.

You have to be sure to communicate the damaging effects of a toxic environment. Prevention of workplace harassment is easier when your staff knows the consequences of violating the policy.

  1. Conduct regular meetings where employees get educated on how workplace harassment affects an employee on an individual basis and how it affects the whole organizational productivity as well.
  2. Train the employees on a regular basis about the different kinds of harassment, and what to do when affected by it.
  3. Also educate them on the strict legal action that will be taken against them if they harass somebody.
  4. Keep this training material accessible to all the employees.
  5. Educate them on the complaint procedures and help them with resources such as counselling or therapy.

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