Stop Internal Harassment Before It Happens

Category: Human Resources

In the past year, sexual harassment has been significantly featured in the news because of the #MeToo movement.  Company leadership and employees need to understand internal harassment can come in a variety of mediums – verbal, physical, and sexual.

When harassment exists, it can be blatant or subtle, and it’s important to make sure that your office is prepared to shut down poor behavior before it starts. Here’s are the steps to stopping internal harassment.

Defining Harassment

First, both your onboarding process and your employee handbook should contain clear definitions of what verbal, physical, and sexual harassment are. Both the onboarding materials and the employee handbook need to be consistent.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical behavior. A key definition is that the recipient does not want it or finds the behavior uncomfortable, either physically or psychologically.

The harassing behavior could center around slurs, name-calling, jokes, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures, and physical assaults or threats.

The harassing behavior can target the following areas:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion;
  • Sex (including pregnancy);
  • Gender/gender identity;
  • Nationality;
  • Age (40 or older); and
  • Physical or mental disability, or genetic information.

Harassment, Company Policy, and the Law

After making the definition of harassment clear, the onboarding materials and handbook should discuss company policies and the laws against sexual harassment.

Make it clear that all employees are to treat each other with dignity and respect. Make it clear that your company values every employee.

Discuss the law. Harassment can cross the line into illegal behavior if the person being harassed must put up with the behavior to keep their job or the conduct is pervasive or severe enough that a reasonable person would find it intimidating, hostile, or abusive. If the harassment is being done by a supervisor and it is associated with a clear change in salary or status for the employee, it may also be illegal.

Train Your Teams

After the definitions and laws have been clearly articulated, team training can be very helpful in making clear to employees what harassment is – and what it isn’t. Short case studies of specific behaviors in a workplace context, for instance, can help employees define what is acceptable behavior.

Different racial, gender, and age groups may think very differently about internal harassment. Older generations, for example, may not realize that once-acceptable behaviors are seen by younger people as no longer acceptable. Examples can be followed by quizzes on the material, which will help your human resources team assess employee understanding.

Barracuda Consulting Offers Team Training and More

Knowing exactly what verbal, physical, or sexual harassment is may be challenging for some employees. Barracuda Consulting can offer team training and other help designed to make the definition of harassment and the policies and laws against it clear. We can customize team training to your needs. Contact us today.