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Don’t be caught by surprise: Spell out harassment policy

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Your anti-discrimination and harassment policy won’t help much if employees don’t know it exists or how to make complaints. If they suffer in silence, the first you’ll know about harassment may be when you receive an EEOC or a New Jersey Division of Civil Rights complaint. By then, the harm’s been done—and you may have lost a valuable defense and the chance to stop litigation.

If you leave employees in the dark about how to complain about harassment, you lose your only real defense against co-worker harassment: swift action following an employee complaint.

Recent case: Ernest Oh, who is South Korean, serviced air conditioners until he was fired for poor performance. That’s when he sued his former employer, claiming that a supervisor had routinely called him “Old Man” and sometimes called him a “f–––––– Korean.”

The company had no inkling that anything was amiss; Oh never complained while he worked for them. The company wanted the court to toss the case, but it refused. Instead, the employer will get a chance to cross-examine Oh under oath about the alleged abuse before the case goes to trial. (Oh v. Engelhard, No. 04-CV-0020, DC NJ, 2007)

Tips: Regularly remind all employees of your company’s harassment policy. Train supervisors how to handle complaints. Include the policy in the employee handbook and discuss it during orientations. Include reminders in the company newsletters. You may even want to include adherence to the policy in your employees’ evaluations.  

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