Harassment and discrimination are not new to the business world. Several employees across the globe have been victims and survivors of workplace harassment and discrimination. Such discriminatory and character-tarnishing behavior from anyone in an organization can threaten productivity and safety at work, which is considered illegal. Aside from being verbal and psychological, these attacks can include sexual and physical harassment. If an organization does not take the necessary steps to prevent various workplace issues, it can be held liable for its actions.
This article deals with how employers can address workplace harassment and discrimination.
It is considered discrimination when an employee is treated unfairly or differently in an employment setting. This act becomes illegal when it occurs due to a person’s race, sex, age, disability/ physical condition, religion, marital status or any other characteristic. The law prohibits unfair or discriminatory treatment of employees and lays out specific rules for the victims to sue the organization or the employer.
Harassment is discrimination that occurs when a supervisor, co-worker, manager, or employer makes an intimidating or threatening remark or act toward an employee to create a hostile work environment. It is prohibited according to the law. Several federal and state laws protect employees against various types of discrimination and harassment in employment.
Managers should be vigilant about providing the safest workspace and look for any harassment or discrimination that can jeopardize the organization. The HR managers are responsible for implementing a harassment and discrimination-free environment for the employees. When any such activities occur, appropriate and timely action will save the organization not only from getting sued but also helps build more trust in the employees.
According to recent employment discrimination statistics, 61% of employees in the United States have experienced or witnessed workplace discrimination.
In most organizations, HR professionals are entrusted with the duty of protecting the company’s and its employees’ interests. The HR department often takes the lead in developing and implementing risk management strategies. Nevertheless, the respective managers are also responsible for ensuring that employees are protected from discrimination and that the organization takes the necessary steps to address any issues. This is why educating employees about their rights and responsibilities becomes significant. Here are a few points HR managers should consider:
1. Ensure that employees are aware of the company’s anti-harassment policy, and provide a copy of the approach to all employees during orientation and the annual performance evaluation meeting.
2. See to it that managers respond promptly and appropriately to reports of harassment in the workplace. It can help prevent retaliation against those who make such complaints.
3. Managers can be proactive and add questions in the annual employee engagement survey or meetings to find out whether the employees face any instances of harassment or discrimination or have seen it happening to someone else. This allows employees to build trust in the employer and fosters a discrimination-free workspace.
4. If the allegation of harassment is not resolved immediately, managers can consult an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer (EEO) to provide interim relief.
5. If the investigation is not resolved immediately, managers can take immediate action against the individuals involved. This can include disciplinary and corrective measures.
Addressing harassment and discrimination in the workspace
Here are a few steps managers can take to build harassment and discrimination-free workplaces.
Awareness and involvement
Understanding the scope of discrimination and harassment in the workplace is the first step in addressing it. It’s essential to consider various tools that can help managers improve the effectiveness of their efforts. Unfortunately, despite the measures organizations have in place to prevent it, it may still not be successful. Hence along with introducing tools to detect discrimination and harassment, it is always necessary that the employees avail the direct involvement of managers.
Involvement of employees
Employees’ involvement can significantly help in sorting discrimination and harassment issues. Managers can genuinely bring employees into the process and seek feedback on various aspects that could threaten workplace safety. They could also be let to participate in meetings that discuss ways to mitigate these issues in question. This will allow the organization to demonstrate its commitment to fighting discrimination and harassment. It can help increase employee buy-in.
Suitable reporting systems
One of the most important factors that employers need to consider while addressing discrimination is ensuring that their employees are aware of the ways in which they can report it. This can be done through regular communication and by offering anonymous channels. Employees should be able to share their feedback in a confidential manner so that leaders and stakeholders can’t access it directly. This is also beneficial for developing effective feedback programs. Having processes that allow tracking and collection of reports can help ensure that reports are resolved and addressed efficiently.
Communication and feedback
Most employees don’t report their workplace issues because they’re not sure if their experience would be enough to make them feel threatened. Some tend to assume that their situation would be considered “bad enough” to raise concerns. This could mean they’re worried their employer is taking discrimination seriously.
When managers are vocal about their concerns about discrimination, they take the initial steps of prevention. Recognizing workplace issues and getting feedback is also a must to improve the discussion around them. Managers should regularly communicate with their teammates and remind them of the significance of feedback. This can be done in various forms, such as newsletters and one-on-ones.
Despite the commitment it takes to end discrimination, it requires time and effort from the managers and employers to make a difference. By staying discrimination and harassment-free, a company can improve the quality of its work environment and raise employee morale. HR managers and team supervisors should take every possible step to learn what’s happening with the workforce and get involved to eradicate if there are any issues. These initiatives will take you closer to achieving a more productive and satisfied workforce.