Everyone wants to feel welcome, respected, and safe when they come to work. This sets people up to do their best work, which is also a win for the company. Unfortunately, negative incidents like harassment can undermine those feelings of safety, making it difficult for employees to feel supported in the workplace.
It’s important to have structural support to prevent such incidents and address them if they do arise. That’s where an anti-harassment policy comes in. Here’s what you should know about how to create and use an anti-harassment policy to support a positive culture at your organization.
What is an Anti-Harassment Policy?
An anti-harassment policy is a set of rules, policies, and procedures that organizations put in place to prevent the occurrence of harassment or discriminatory behaviorin the workplace.
Policies often cover:
- A clear definition of harassment.
- Examples of what constitutes unacceptable behavior and harassment.
- How employees can report this behavior.
- The consequences for people who harass other team members.
They may also include statements regarding confidentiality and consequences for engaging in inappropriate behavior. This will help create an environment where everyone feels confident reporting harassment or discrimination, as they trust the organization will treat it seriously.
Why do Companies Need an Anti-Harassment Policy?
HR teamsare no strangers to policies and procedures, and an anti-harassment policy is an important part of your toolbox — even for small businesses. Let’s examine some of the main reasons your company benefits from having one in place.
Creates a Safe, Respectful Work Culture
An anti-harassment policy helps companies create a workplace culture of trust and respect, which can help you retain your current employees. Research shows that 68% of employeeswho’ve witnessed discrimination or harassment are intending to switch jobs in the next year.
Having a formal policy helps to discourage harassing behavior and ensure such incidents are handled quickly and fairly. It helps employees understand the types of behavior that aren’t allowed, so they can feel confident reporting it if they see it. Outlining the consequences of harassing conduct also helps your team trust that their reports will be taken seriously and handled fairly and appropriately.
Supports Legal Compliance
While there aren’t any federal laws that require companies to have an anti-harassment policy in place, theEqual Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends it.
And anti-harassment policies may be required at a state level, or to comply with local laws. Different states have varied requirements, so be sure to familiarize yourself with what’s needed to comply with the regulations where you are.
Protects Your Company From Liability
Having an anti-harassment policy also helps protect your company legally if an employee decides to sue. If you can show that the behavior was addressed and appropriate action was taken, it will help defend the case that you were not negligent in protecting your employees.
It also helps employers protect themselves from lawsuits alleging a hostile work environment, as they can then show that they have taken steps to prevent it.
Key Elements of a Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Policy
An effective anti-harassment policy typically includes lots of information to help people spot harassment and know how and when to report it. While different companies will structure their policies to suit their needs, here are some examples of what yours could include.
This section outlines why the policy exists and the scope of the policy. It can identify who will be held to the standards outlined in the policy (employees, managers, contractors, customers) and when the policy applies (in the workplace, at work-related social activities, at client meetings, etc.).
Definition of Harassment
This section provides a clear definition of harassment and any other related behaviors, such as discrimination, bullying, or sexual harassment. It also explains that such behaviors are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
There are several forms of harassment that can occur, so you’ll want to create a comprehensive definition. For example:
- Discriminating against someone based on a protected characteristic, such as ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, or age.
- Verbal bullying, either in-person or through workplace communication channels such as Slack or Teams messages.
- Unwanted physical contact, which can be of aggressive or sexual nature.
Process for Reporting Harassment
This section is where you can provide clear instructions on what employees should do if they experience or witness harassment. It outlines the steps to follow, such as who to report it to and how the organization will handle any reports.
It can explain how the employee should report incidents of harassment to their manager or the HR team. You may also want to include alternative report options in case their manager isn’t available or is directly involved in the incident.
One final crucial element to include is a clear explanation of protection for employees who report such conduct, so they can do so without fear of reprisal.
Process for Investigating Harassment
This section provides a clear outline of the process for investigating any reports of harassment. This includes who will be responsible for conducting the investigation, how long it will take, and any other information that may be needed.
You may want to include details of what information you’ll need from people reporting harassment, such as evidence or a written statement. This will help people understand the full complaint process before they report it.
Disciplinary Process for Individuals Carrying Out Harassment
This section explains what disciplinary process the organization will use if someone is found to have carried out harassment. The level of disciplinary action should relate to the severity of the incident. It could include a warning, demotion, or even termination of employment. It should also explain what support will be provided for the person who was harassed, such as counseling or other forms of assistance.
Documenting the disciplinary process in your policy will help reassure people that if they report harassment, there will be an impartial investigation with appropriate corrective action if someone’s done something wrong.
Examples of Workplace Anti-Harassment Policies
Unless you’ve written several anti-harassment policies before, it can be tricky to know if you’ve covered everything you need to. Even then, you might not want to start drafting one from scratch. Thankfully, there are lots of sample anti-harassment policies available online. Here are some template and sample policies:
- Anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure– Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- Nondiscrimination/anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure– SHRM
- Workplace harassment policy sample– Workable
- Bullying and harassment policy– CharlieHR
- Harassment policy tips– EEOC
These resources, templates, and tips can give you inspiration and help you start drafting your own policy.
Focus on Building a Happy, Safe, and Healthy Work Environment
By implementing an effective anti-harassment policy, companies can create a positive company culture and promote an inclusive work environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.
But policies and procedures aren’t the only way HR teams can influence the work environment and company culture. Many HR teams also play a key role in putting together their company’s benefits package, setting out the perks and non-financial benefits the company offers its employees.
Our research shows that 83% of employeesfeel their wellbeing is just as important as their salary at work, so it’s no surprise that wellness benefits are highly sought-after. A corporate wellness program can be a valuable addition to your benefits package, helping you foster a healthy work environment.
If you want to learn more about developing a wellness program for your employees, reach out to a Gympass wellbeing specialisttoday!
- The American workforce faces compounding pressure. APA. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://www.apa.org/pubs/reports/work-well-being/compounding-pressure-2021
- Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace. EEOC. Published June 2016. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://www.eeoc.gov/select-task-force-study-harassment-workplace
- Anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure. SHRM. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/anti-harassment-policy.aspx
- Nondiscrimination/anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure. SHRM. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/nondiscrimination-antiharassment-policy.aspx
- Workplace harassment policy sample. Workable. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://resources.workable.com/workplace-harassment-company-policy
- Bullying and harassment policy. CharlieHR. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://www.charliehr.com/hr-policies/bullying-and-harassment-policy
- Harassment policy tips. EEOC. Accessed March 3, 2023 from https://www.eeoc.gov/employers/small-business/harassment-policy-tips
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.