How to Create a Harassment-Free Workplace

Discrimination is the underlying cause of harassment and a number of federal, state and municipal laws prohibit employment discrimination as a means to prevent harassment in the workplace. Employers have a business obligation and a social responsibility to provide a safe working environment – one that’s free from harassment and discriminatory treatment. Therefore, most employers embrace equal opportunity employment as a statement of their commitment to creating and sustaining a harassment-free workplace.

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    Research early federal nondiscrimination laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Conduct research on other federal laws that prohibit discrimination and workplace harassment, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Access state and municipal labor and employment laws for your jurisdiction, such as applicable sections of the Texas Labor Code, Chapter 21.

  2. 2.

    Read the complete text of these workplace laws. Consider their intent and application within the context of equal employment. Understand how they apply to your workforce. Contact the government agencies responsible for enforcing nondiscrimination laws if you have questions about whether your workplace is subject to the provisions of each law. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces federal nondiscrimination laws and provides technical guidance to employers seeking help interpreting regulations. State fair employment practices agencies, or FEPAs, such as the Texas Workforce Commission, are also available to employers' representatives seeking answers about labor and employment laws.

  3. 3.

    Ask your company president to write a memorandum to all staff reaffirming the organization’s commitment to fair and equal treatment of employees, applicants, vendors, suppliers and customers. The letter should be signed by the highest level of management. Post copies of the memo throughout workplace common areas such as employee entrances and break rooms.

  4. 4.

    Engage managers and supervisors in open and candid communication about the organization’s position as an equal opportunity employer. Make it evident to your employees that your company is firmly committed to ensuring they have a safe working environment, free from harassment and discriminatory treatment.

  5. 5.

    Develop training curricula for supervisors and employees on labor and employment laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment. Use a variety of instruction methods, such as role-play and experiential learning tools. Convey a strong message that the company has zero tolerance for harassment of any kind, based on any reason. Address harassment based on several forms of discrimination, including race, color, national origin, religion and disability. Do not limit your training to sexual harassment.

  6. 6.

    Incorporate training on harassment and discriminatory treatment in your new hire orientation curriculum. Mandate regular and ongoing training for employees and supervisors. Provide refresher training on an annual or as-needed basis.

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    Train supervisors on their responsibility to refrain from discriminatory behavior and harassment. Stress the importance of supervisors’ roles in maintaining a harassment-free workplace and how modeling appropriate behavior can prevent harassment from occurring. Give supervisors examples of companies held liable for supervisors’ inappropriate responses to harassing behavior in the workplace.

  8. 8.

    Construct a written workplace policy against discrimination and harassment. Include information on how to report incidents to a supervisor, manager or a human resources staff member. Designate a human resources specialist to handle complaints concerning workplace discrimination and behavior.

  9. 9.

    Revise your employee handbook to include your written policy, explaining how the company addresses complaints about harassment through investigation and resolution. Describe handling of intentional harassment according to the company’s employee discipline policy. Distribute copies of revised handbooks. Obtain signed acknowledgement forms from all employees indicating they received and understand the policy. Put a copy of the signed acknowledgement in each employee’s personnel file.

  10. 10.

    Demonstrate appropriate workplace behavior for employees to emulate. Ensure your actions and behaviors in no way condone or endorse discrimination or harassment in the work environment.