Sample Policy: Harassment

February 28, 2011
in Employment Law

The following sample policies were excerpted from The Book of Company Policies, published by HR Specialist, © 2007. Edit for your organization’s purposes.

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Sample Policy 1: Sexual Harassment

“XYZ is pledged to preserving a working environment free from sexual harassment. Harassment is against the law and is a form of gender discrimination. The aim of this policy is to prevent harassment of any kind by anyone employed by or associated with the company.

“Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or unwanted sexual attention by anyone associated with the company, whether male or female. Harassment may include references to employment status or conditions or may serve to create a hostile, intimidating or uncomfortable work environment. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, obscene jokes, lewd comments, sexual depictions, repeated requests for dates, touching, staring or other sexual conduct committed either on or off company premises.

“Victims of sexual harassment have the right to sue both the company and the perpetrator by contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or a state agency. For this reason and for the protection of all our employees, XYZ seeks to prevent sexual harassment.

“All XYZ employees are responsible for helping ensure that our workplace is kept free of sexual harassment. If you feel you have been a victim of sexual harassment, report the behavior to our Sexual Harassment Coordinators [name, location, phone number] or to any supervisor, member of the personnel department or the company president. If you have witnessed sexual harassment, you also are urged to report the incident so that prompt action may be taken.

“All complaints will be treated seriously, kept as confidential as possible and investigated fully. XYZ expressly forbids any retaliation against employees for reporting sexual harassment. If, however, the company finds that false charges have been filed, disciplinary action may be taken against anyone who provides false information.

“If an investigation confirms that sexual harassment has occurred, immediate action will be taken to put an end to the harassment. XYZ will take appropriate corrective actions against anyone found to be in violation of this policy, including possible termination of employment.”

 

Sample Policy 2: Other Discriminatory Harassment

Harassment on the basis of factors other than sex can also create dissension in your company and get you dragged into court on charges of discrimination. To protect yourself and make it clear that your organization respects all individuals, you may want to draw up a separate policy statement to address it:

“XYZ strongly supports the rights of all its employees to work in an environment free from all forms of harassment, including harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disability. Harassing conduct includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Epithets
  • Negative stereotyping
  • Slurs
  • Threatening, intimidating or hostile acts that relate to the above characteristics
  • Written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of the above characteristics, and that is placed on walls, bulletin boards, or elsewhere on the premises, or circulated in the workplace. 

“In compliance with the EEOC Guidelines and our policy, XYZ prohibits harassment of any kind. If the result of an investigation indicates that corrective action is called for, such action may include disciplinary measures up to and including immediate termination of the employment of the offender.”

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POLICY CONSIDERATIONS

It’s vitally important for all employers to establish a formal policy prohibiting sexual harassment, one that conforms to state as well as federal law. Communicate this policy to all employees in your company, regardless of management level. Review and update your policy on a regular basis. An effective sexual harassment policy should contain these points:

  • A broad definition of the type of conduct that constitutes sexual harassment.
  • A statement that offenders will be subject to appropriate discipline, up to and including discharge.
  • A statement encouraging employees who feel victimized by sexual harassment to report the offensive conduct.
  • A statement requiring employees and supervisors to report any offensive conduct that they experience or witness.
  • A statement providing assurances that there will be no retaliation against an employee reporting sexual harassment.
  • A statement indicating that all reports of sexual harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated, and prompt remedial action will be taken should the company conclude that sexual harassment has occurred.

In defining “harassment,” you may quote the EEOC verbatim or write your own definition with the help of your legal counsel, but be sure to include both quid pro quo and hostile-environment harassment. You should also define sexual favoritism and even indirect harassment. You want to make sure your employees understand that you are enforcing both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Set up a complaint procedure. Provide the names and phone numbers of contact people to whom workers can report misconduct. (If you had only one contact, it would be difficult for someone harassed by that person to file a complaint.) Specify who will investigate and decide the outcome of a complaint. Try to ensure confidentiality to the greatest extent possible. Set a time frame to process and resolve complaints quickly and fairly, and decide how appeals will be handled.

Explain the procedures for filing a complaint with the EEOC as well, or at least make it clear that employees have that option. Have someone outside the policy team review your policy to make sure that the grievance procedures are spelled out clearly, in terms all employees can understand.

Investigate complaints ASAP. Every complaint of sexual harassment must be taken seriously and investigated promptly. Develop a method to interview the accused, the accuser and potential witnesses, as well as a system to gather and record evidence. Treat all parties with dignity and respect. Conduct all interviews privately, and ensure the confidentiality of the investigation.

Enforce your policy. If your investigation reveals an actual sexual harassment case, notify the involved parties and decide on the type of disciplinary action to take. Depending on the harasser’s work record and the gravity of the charge, you may decide on an oral or written warning, deferral of a raise or a promotion, demotion, suspension or discharge.

Be fair in your judgment, and apply your disciplinary actions evenly. Make sure you have all the necessary documentation to back up any disciplinary action. Keep all those records contained in one file. If the harasser decides to sue for wrongful termination or job discrimination, you will be able to locate all the information you need to justify your decision.

Promote your policy. It’s not enough simply to have a sexual harassment policy on file. To avert liability, employees must know your policy exists and understand your grievance procedures. Once your policy is written, don’t bury it in a pile of other company edicts or attach it as an afterthought to your antidiscrimination policy. Present it separately in handbooks and on bulletin boards. Think of it not as “just another company rule” but as an educational vehicle for your employees. Hold in-house meetings to communicate your policy effectively. Ask your work force to give you their input and to voice their concerns.

Unlike other policies that are invoked only when a particular situation arises, your sexual harassment policy governs workplace interaction all day, every day. It shouldn’t be a reference that employees turn to only after a problem arises.

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