For me, yesterday was all about the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the morning and for most of the afternoon, I served as a volunteer EEOC mediator to help resolve a Charge of Discrimination. After completing my service, I chilled out with a copy of the EEOC’s new technical assistance document, “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment in the Federal Sector,” which provides practical tips for preventing and addressing harassment within the federal civilian workforce.
Have I mentioned that I’m a huge nerd?
As I read the guidance, it became clear that much of it was not specific to the federal sector. But, more so, there were excellent tips that private-sector employers may want to utilize in their workplaces to improve their anti-harassment efforts. There were 12, in particular, that caught my eye:
- Issue and distribute to all employees, and prominently post an annual anti-harassment policy statement signed by a company official stating that harassment will not be tolerated, the type of conduct that is prohibited, how to report harassment and the consequences of engaging in harassment and retaliation. The statement should be posted in an electronic, accessible form readily available to all employees (including those with disabilities)
- Conduct climate and exit surveys as well as review EEO complaint data to gauge the prevalence of harassment, retaliation, and other unwelcome work-related conduct. This can help the company identify appropriate responses.
- Ensure the company’s response to harassment allegations is regularly evaluated and documented through an electronic tracking system.
- Acknowledge and reward employees, supervisors, and managers for creating and maintaining a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.
- Acknowledge and reward supervisors and managers for taking actions that prevent harassment.
- A description of the company’s anti-harassment program includes multiple channels to report harassment, including to company officials outside the supervisory chain of command.
- An easy-to-understand description of prohibited conduct that includes practical examples of harassment that are tailored to the company’s workforce.
- An explanation that the use of company-issued devices, such as laptops and cell phones, to engage in online harassment and abuse, including sexual harassment or racial harassment, among other types of harassment, communicated through email, work-based chat/messaging platforms and text messaging and phone calls will not be tolerated.
- Written and disseminated anti-harassment policy: (a) in a clear, easy-to-understand style that uses plain English; and (b) made available onsite and online in accessible formats (as needed), such as digital formats that are compatible with screen reading software, large font, braille, and languages commonly used by employees
- Ensure that anti-harassment training includes examples of disability-based harassment.
- Live, interactive discussions allowing attendees to participate and present questions and concerns to trainers.
- Trauma-informed training for all personnel who may receive or respond to allegations of harassment or harassing conduct.
Federal law tasks employers with exercising reasonable care to avoid harassment and to eliminate it when it might occur. There are dozens of “promising practices” in the EEOC’s Technical Resource that can help businesses achieve these goals. So, check it out for yourself and consider implementing ones that help to reduce the risk of harassment.