News & Insights

Employer Discrimination & Harassment Policies – Some Practical Tips
May 14, 2014
by Robert Conte


South Bend / Mishawaka, IN – In the world of Human Resources and employment law, one thing is certain, things will change and fast. It is therefore important that employers have well drafted and comprehensive anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies in their organization. Here are some suggestions that we hope you find helpful:

  • All discrimination and harassment policies should include detailed guidelines for reporting discrimination or harassment to immediate supervisors or in the alternative, to another member of management, if the harasser is the immediate supervisor
  • Complaints under the policy should be made both orally and in writing, and each complaint, informal or otherwise, should be thoroughly investigated
  • Create a zero tolerance policy for any forms of discrimination or harassment and distribute the policy to all employees at the time of hire, receiving a written acknowledgment of receipt
  • Revisit and update the employment policies on a regular basis to ensure that they comply with all federal, state and local laws
  • Apply the policies consistently to all employees
  • Train your management and other employees on a regular basis to help them recognize potential discrimination and harassment issues in the workplace and how to respond to them. It may also be helpful during the training sessions to reinforce the company’s commitment to mutual respect and dignity among all employees, regardless of their position in the organization
  • When a complaint is filed, whether orally or in writing, it is a time to send a message to your employees, the company takes all allegations of discrimination, harassment or any inappropriate conduct seriously
  • Establish clearly defined reporting procedures that allow employee complaints to be promptly investigated; remind employees of the reporting procedures and their obligation to follow all such procedures so that any required action can be taken in a timely matter. This will establish employer credibility among the employees
  • Pay attention to social media; it is everywhere. Employees’ emails, posts, tweets and blog entries are all in play and could create situations of unlawful harassment or discrimination
  • Make sure that your employment policies cover proper conduct on the use of social media and that all employees, including management, are properly educated and aware of the consequences for misuse; offensive or inappropriate actions are not to be tolerated
  • Listen to your employees. A strong mutually respectful relationship with your employees is a good thing. Consider an open-door policy that encourages employees to raise concerns and to feel confident that their concerns will be heard and addressed, without any form of retaliation. It will help improve employee morale and identify problem areas and issues and enhance productivity

Employers, if you have not already done so, take a close look at your employment policies and practices with the intent to improve them. Where they need fixing, fix them by implementing any necessary changes, and always respond in a prompt and decisive manner when elements of discrimination or harassment arise in your workplace. Having sound employment policies and applying them consistently will create a positive work environment built on honesty and trust.