HR Compliance

Best Practices for Communicating Anti-Harassment Policy to a Diverse Workforce

By

Erin Maxwell

| May 23, 2018

With the current cultural emphasis on preventing workplace harassment, many employers are revising and updating their anti-harassment policies. But no matter how good your policy is, it is valuable only to the extent that you communicate it to your employees and provide them with the necessary training and resources to implement it.

In 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a report about harassment in the workplace. It concluded that while training was an important part of any anti-harassment policy, such training “cannot stand alone but rather must be part of a holistic effort undertaken by the employer to prevent harassment.”

Beyond training sessions, the most effective means of communicating your anti-harassment policy to employees is to demonstrate values and behaviors that embody the principles of said policy. This helps foster a culture of inclusion and respect by modeling what is tolerated and what is not.

What training should – and shouldn’t – be

  • Company trainings remain vital, and should be interactive and frequent.
  • Executives and those in supervisory positions should have their own training sessions separately, both to avoid chilling discussion, as well as to emphasize management’s unique role in enforcing company policies and modeling appropriate behavior.
  • Tailor your training to discuss the behaviors you want to promote, as well as those you want to discourage, even if the latter may not rise to the legal definition of harassment. Avoid freighting these sessions with a large amount of information irrelevant to your workplace or industry; use examples that address everyday situations your employees face in your particular line of business and workplace environment.
  • Make training materials easy to understand. Provide them in each language commonly spoken by members of your workforce, and use everyday wording rather than excessive legalistic jargon.

Finally, keep in mind that limitations may exist under the National Labor Relations Act on company policies mandating civility, so consult with an attorney to help draft a policy that promotes the behavior you wish to see, while not infringing on employees’ right to collective action.

For more information about communicating to different types of employees, check out How to Use Personality Assessment Tests to Improve Workplace Culture and Communication. When we understand how co-workers and managers prefer to communicate, the workplace becomes a more productive, comfortable environment.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.

About the Author

Erin Maxwell

As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Erin Maxwell monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal level, focusing on health and employee benefits laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. She previously served as assistant general counsel at Asset Servicing Group in Oklahoma City. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. Outside of work, Maxwell enjoys politics, historical mysteries and spending time with her family.

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