Building a Safe and Inclusive Workplace: Preventing Harassment and Promoting Equality

Posted by: kevensteinberg
Category: Blog, Business Law, Employment Law

Harassment of any kind has no place in the workplace. Employers have a legal obligation to provide a work environment free from intimidation, insult, or ridicule based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. 

This obligation is not only required by federal anti-discrimination laws, but it is also good business practice. Harassment can have a negative impact on employee morale, productivity, and retention. 

It can also lead to legal liability for employers. For these reasons, it is important for employers to take steps to prevent and deal with harassment in a workplace.

Steps that employers should take to prevent harassment include:

  • Create a clear and concise policy against harassment. The policy should be in writing and should be distributed to all employees.
  • Train employees on the policy. Training should cover the definition of harassment, the types of harassment that are prohibited, and the procedures for reporting harassment.
  • Encourage employees to report harassment. Employees should feel comfortable reporting harassment without fear of retaliation.
  • Investigate all complaints of harassment promptly and thoroughly. Investigations should be conducted by a neutral party, and the results of the investigation should be kept confidential.
  • Take appropriate action to address harassment. Depending on the severity of the harassment, appropriate action may include counseling, discipline, or termination.

Employers should also be aware that they may be held liable for harassment that is committed by their employees, managers, customers, or vendors. For example, if a customer harasses an employee, the employer may be held liable if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate action to stop it.

By taking steps to prevent and address harassment, employers can create a more positive and productive work environment for all employees. If you have been a victim of harassment, do not hesitate to speak to an experienced harassment lawyer.

What Constitutes Harassment

Harassment is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of their race, skin color, religion, gender, national origin, age, or disability. For the conduct to be considered harassment, it must have the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Examples of harassing conduct include:

  • Epithets: This includes slurs, negative stereotyping, or threatening, intimidating, or hostile acts that relate to an individual’s protected characteristic. For example, calling a black employee the n-word or making fun of a Muslim employee’s religion would be considered harassment.
  • Written or graphic material: This includes anything that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group because of their protected characteristic. For example, posting a racist meme on the company’s bulletin board would be considered harassment.
  • Unwanted sexual advances: This includes any unwelcome sexual conduct, such as touching, groping, or making sexual comments.
  • Quid pro quo harassment: This occurs when an employee is asked to submit to sexual advances in exchange for job benefits or to avoid job detriments. For example, a supervisor telling an employee that they will be promoted if they have sex with them would be considered quid pro quo harassment.
  • Hostile work environment: This occurs when the work environment is made hostile or offensive because of an individual’s protected characteristic. For example, a workplace where sexist jokes are constantly made would be considered a hostile work environment.

It is important to note that not all harassing conduct is unlawful. In order for conduct to be considered unlawful harassment, it must be severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The reasonable person standard is used to determine whether conduct is considered harassment. 

Under this standard, the conduct is evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person in the same or similar circumstances. If a reasonable person would find the conduct to be intimidating, hostile, or abusive, then it is considered harassment.

The subjective perception of the harassed employee is also considered. This means that even if a reasonable person would not find the conduct to be harassing, if the harassed employee does find it to be harassing, then it is still considered harassment.

It is important to take steps to prevent and address harassment in the workplace. Employers should have a clear and concise policy against harassment that is distributed to all employees. 

Employees should be encouraged to report harassment without fear of retaliation. Employers should also investigate all complaints of harassment promptly and thoroughly.

By taking these steps, employers can create a workplace that is free from harassment.

Handling and Preventing Harassment

Essential steps for preventing and dealing with harassment in the workplace will include establishing an effective complaint procedure. This should be a clear and concise process that employees can follow to report harassment that includes information on how to contact the person who will be handling the complaint, how to document the complaint, and what to expect during the investigation.

Companies should also create and communicate an anti-harassment policy. This policy should be in writing and should be distributed to all employees, and should define harassment, outline the types of harassment that are prohibited, and explain the consequences of engaging in harassment.

Treat all complaints of harassment seriously. When an employee reports harassment, it is important to take the complaint seriously and to investigate it promptly. 

An investigation should be conducted by a neutral party, and the results of the investigation should be kept confidential. Do not retaliate against the person who filed the complaint. 

Retaliation is any adverse action taken against an employee because they have filed a complaint of harassment. Retaliation is illegal, and employers who retaliate against employees can be held liable.

Take appropriate action to address harassment. Once the investigation is complete, the employer should take appropriate action to address the harassment. 

This may include counseling the harasser, disciplining the harasser, or terminating the harasser’s employment. Document all complaints and investigations. 

It is important to document all complaints of harassment and all investigations that are conducted. This documentation will help to protect the employer in the event of a lawsuit.

Train all employees on the anti-harassment policy. It is important to train all employees on the anti-harassment policy. 

This training should explain the definition of harassment, the types of harassment that are prohibited, and the consequences of engaging in harassment. Create a culture of respect in the workplace. 

Employers should create a culture of respect in the workplace where employees feel comfortable reporting harassment and where harassers are held accountable for their actions. Be proactive, as employers should be proactive in preventing harassment. 

This means creating a workplace where harassment is not tolerated and taking steps to educate employees about harassment. Encourage employees to speak up. 

Employees should be encouraged to speak up if they see or experience harassment. Employers should make it clear that employees will not be retaliated against for reporting harassment.

Contact Our Los Angeles Harassment Attorney

At Steinberg Law, our attorneys understand how difficult it can be to talk about harassment in the workplace. We know that it can be a very sensitive and emotional topic, and we want to make sure that you feel comfortable and supported as you discuss your experience with us.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling harassment cases, and we know the law inside and out. We will take the time to listen to your story and understand your specific needs. 

We will then work with you to develop a plan to address the harassment and protect your rights. If you are a victim of harassment, we can help you:

  • File a complaint with your employer
  • Pursue legal action against your employer
  • Obtain compensation for your damages, including lost wages, emotional distress, and pain and suffering

We will fight for your rights and help you get the justice you deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation.

We understand that harassment can be a very difficult experience, but we are here to help. Call (818) 855-1103 or contact us online today for a free consultation.

Author: kevensteinberg