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3 provisions NOT to include in your sexual harassment policy

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some judges interpret policies, including those on sexual harassment, as enforceable contracts between employer and employee. To prevent charges that you didn't live up to your side of the bargain in a sexual harassment policy, don't:

1. Guarantee confidentiality. You can't ensure that information about employees' complaints will remain completely secure.

When investigating charges, you need to interview witnesses and talk to the alleged harasser. While you can urge employees not to talk about the investigation, people often do talk. Make sure employees understand the limits to which confidentiality extends.

2. Set strict limits on what constitutes harassment. Don't phrase your policy in such a way that employees might infer that any behaviors not described have your seal of approval. Provide general guidelines regarding what constitutes sexual harassment. Include a statement that harassment "is not limited to" the examples you've cited.

3. Promise to resolve complaints to the victim's satisfaction. Be especially careful not to imply that every complaint will result in disciplinary action. You simply want to promise that all complaints will be treated seriously.

Some complaints won't have merit or you won't be able to substantiate them. Don't open yourself to a "breach of contract" claim simply because your policy promises to solve the problem to the employee's satisfaction.

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