As a business owner, your duty is to ensure a respectful and inclusive environment in your organization. Workplace bullying and harassment are far from simple inconveniences. They threaten your business, disrupting harmony, dampening employee morale, and potentially leading to expensive legal repercussions. They create an inhospitable environment that could deter potential talent from joining your team.
Sometimes, seemingly harmless jest can escalate into illegal behavior. Let us shed light on three instances when workplace bullying and harassment cross the line:
- Sexual harassment: This includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that impacts an individual’s employment or creates an intimidating or hostile work environment.
- Discrimination: Discrimination becomes illegal when an employee experiences unfavorable treatment due to their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
- Retaliation: Employers cannot fire, demote, harass, or retaliate against individuals for filing a charge of discrimination, complaining about discrimination, or participating in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Creating a workplace free from bullying and harassment is not an unattainable dream. It is a reality that can be achieved with the correct approach.
Develop a Comprehensive Policy
Formulating a policy that clearly defines what constitutes workplace bullying and harassment is your initial line of defense. This document should be as clear as possible and leave no room for misinterpretation. It should provide definitions of bullying and harassment and offer real-world examples for better comprehension. Employees should not doubt what behaviors cross the line. Moreover, the policy should state the consequences for violations, which could vary from counseling and training to termination, depending on the severity of the offense.
Train Your Employees
Training is the tool that fosters understanding. Regular training sessions teach employees to identify and report bullying and harassment. These sessions should be interactive, engaging, and focused on practical applications. Role-playing exercises can help employees understand how certain actions can be perceived as bullying or harassment. They can also learn how to respond when they witness or experience such behavior. An informed workforce is a workforce that is empowered.
Open Multiple Communication Channels
Employees need confidential and non-threatening avenues to report incidents. This could be an anonymous hotline or a designated person within the organization. The aim is to make it possible for employees to voice their concerns. Silence nurtures bullying and harassment. By breaking the silence, you can disrupt the cycle.
Every complaint deserves attention. Treat each one with seriousness. Conduct comprehensive investigations, respecting the privacy and dignity of all parties involved. If the investigation reveals that bullying or harassment has occurred, immediate action is necessary. Justice delayed equates to justice denied.
Victims of bullying and harassment require support in action, not just in words. This could involve providing counseling services or making adjustments to their work environment. The objective is to help them recover and feel safe and respected at work. Your employees are your most valuable asset; treat them as such.
Do not close the file and move on once a complaint has been addressed. Regular follow-ups are crucial to ensure that corrective measures have been effective and that there is no retaliation against the complainant.
Our Philadelphia Business Attorneys at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Can Work to Keep Your Business a Harassment-Free Workplace
Addressing workplace bullying and harassment is a critical responsibility for business owners. At Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C., we are committed to helping businesses like yours create a harassment-free workplace, leveraging our extensive experience to assist you. Speak with our Philadelphia business attorneys to learn more. Contact us online or call us at 215-574-0600 to schedule a consultation today. Located in Philadelphia, we proudly serve clients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.