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Spirit of anti-Harassment policy more important than details

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Chances are your anti-harassment policy includes instructions for reporting any problems. That’s not enough—you also must make sure the policy is implemented.

But don’t worry if circumstances require you to veer slightly from the policy. You can, for example, specify how the employee should report retaliation, asking the employee to contact an investigator rather than following some alternative spelled out in the policy. What counts is complying with the spirit of the policy.

Recent case: Ruby Burton found a doll’s head with white-out painted on its mouth at work and took a look around her workplace. That’s when she found several small stickers on company equipment depicting scantily clad women. She filed an internal complaint.

When management investigated and found the doll’s head, it was immediately removed. No one could find the stickers, and Burton wouldn’t cooperate. The company closed the investigation, and Burton got a letter explaining how the matter had been resolved, along with an invitation to report any retaliation to HR or the investigator.

She sued, claiming the invitation was an attempt to deny her rights under company policy because it didn’t say she could report harassment to a supervisor as the company harassment policy stated.

The court tossed out her claim. It reasoned that the invitation to report retaliation was the important part. No one was trying to bypass the policy, just streamline this particular case. (Burton v. Dofasco Tubular Products, No. 1:06-CV-2466, ND OH, 2007)

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