Harassment prevention is a critical aspect of any workplace culture. In April, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a technical assistance document titled “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment in the Federal Sector,” which provides practical tips for preventing and addressing harassment within the federal civilian workforce. Private sector employers can review the guidance and use it to strengthen and improve their harassment avoidance program.
The “Promising Practices” document provides recommendations in four main areas: 1) leadership and accountability, 2) comprehensive and effective anti-harassment policy, 3) effective and accessible anti-harassment program, and 4) effective anti-harassment training.
- Leadership and Accountability: Establish and maintain an effective EEO/Harassment program and demonstrate commitment and accountability from company leaders. Key actions may include: adequate funding for the program, access to neutral staff to assist with investigations, a commitment to complete investigations within 10 days, conducting periodic climate surveys and considering the use of an anonymous concern line for employees.
- Comprehensive and effective anti-harassment policy: Have a comprehensive policy that clearly defines harassment, outlines the types of conduct that are prohibited, and provides a reporting mechanism for employees who experience or witness harassment. Key items for your policy include: covering applicants and employees, assure that bullying, intimidation, and stalking are referenced and not be tolerated, being easy to understand (limited legalese), covering social platforms and time limits for concluding investigations.
- Effective and accessible anti-harassment program: Make sure all employees understand the policy and know how to report incidents of harassment. Clear reporting and complaint procedures to ensure the company properly respond to harassment allegations. Key actions may include: anonymous methods for reporting, creating a well-documented complaint tracking system, analyzing data for trends and patterns and training employees on the difference between EEO policy and non-harassment policy.
- Effective anti-harassment training. Provide regular training to all employees on harassment prevention, including what constitutes harassment, how to report it, and the consequences for engaging in harassing behavior. Offer training to employees as well as supervisors, provide “real life” examples in the training, have a question and answer portion to the training, tailor training to your workforce, and use smaller groups to enhance engagement.
By reviewing the EEOC’s recommendations for federal agencies, your company can learn of ways to create a workplace culture that is safe and respectful for all employees and ensure that your company is taking proactive steps to prevent and address harassment.