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Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace Essentials

20 Feb


In 2022, almost 50% of surveyed employees identified discrimination as a problem in the workplace.

Unfortunately, harassment and discrimination can still happen even with policies in place to prevent it. As an employer, it is imperative that you have an updated procedure for identifying, reporting, and addressing acts of harassment and discrimination in order to protect your employees and your business.

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Some Basics About the Laws

The federal government requires all employers to post their company’s provisions of the rules in the workplace. All applicants and employees must have access to view them at any time. Some states have provisions in their laws that are more stringent than federal laws. So, be sure to check your state laws when developing or updating your business’ policies and procedures.

There are a few common discrimination laws that have been put in place to protect employees in the workplace. As an employer, it is important to be familiar with them. Here are some examples:

  • Federal equal employment laws requiring non-harassment and non-discrimination against persons in the protected classes generally apply to private employers with 15 or more employees. The protected classes are race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
  • The federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects persons aged 40 or older applying to or working for employers with 20 or more employees. 
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act require equal pay to male and female employees in similar positions working for employers with 15 or more employees.
  • However, the Equal Pay Act requires equal pay for employees working for virtually all employers.

Also, state and local laws protecting employees may apply to employers with fewer than 15 to 20 employees.

Protecting your workers from harassment and discrimination goes beyond the basics of posting the policies in your office. Here are four essentials you should have in your employee handbook to ensure your team’s safety and protection.

4 Essentials For Your Employee Handbook

A statement that harassment and discrimination are prohibited

The U.S. Supreme Court and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission require that employers show they have informed supervisors and employees of a detailed policy prohibiting illegal harassment and discrimination that gives examples of prohibited behavior.

For example, XYZ Company prohibits harassment and discrimination between employees based on legally-protected classes and factors of age (40 or older), race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, veteran status, disability or genetic information, and any other legally protected class or factor.

Clear definitions of illegal harassment and discrimination, with examples

Illegal harassment is behavior by a coworker, supervisor, or manager toward an employee that intimidates, insults, coerces, offends, or interferes with the coworker’s performance of his or her job because of the person’s legally protected factor or class.

For example, harassment and discrimination include, but are not limited to:

  • Expressing comments, jokes, puns, innuendos, bantering, and teasing that demean, insult, or offend others.
  • Leering, gawking, and making other nonverbal gestures that are demeaning, insulting, or offensive.
  • Posting or displaying pictures, photos, illustrations, or objects in the workplace that demean or offend another person or persons, including sexually oriented pictures, photos, and illustrations.
  • Sexually offensive comments, jokes, innuendos, and other sexually-oriented statements directed at an employee.

Instructions to immediately report harassment or discrimination, whether experienced or observed

Employees should report any harassment or discrimination in the workplace immediately, whether they experienced it, believe they experienced it, or witnessed the offense.

In addition, any supervisor or manager who becomes aware of inappropriate behavior must immediately report it to the company’s human resources department. Acting immediately helps combat this behavior and protects your employees.

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A complaint procedure

Employees should be given a choice of more than one person to report any offending behavior to, such as their supervisor, acting supervisor, or human resources director. The policy should also state that there will be an immediate investigation into the issues and that individuals making the complaint will be treated courteously and the problem will be handled confidentially.

The action of registering complaints must not be used against the employee and must not harm the person’s employment status. Employees are cautioned that filing groundless and malicious complaints is an abuse of this policy and is prohibited.
With VensureHR, our HR experts can help you navigate these difficult processes. We care about you and your business. Schedule a consultation today to get a complete HR analysis!

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