- Definition of sexual harassment. The policy can refer to the EEOC’s definition of sexual harassment, but should also attempt to explain, in easy to understand terms, conduct that will and will not be tolerated.
- Complaint procedure. The policy should designate several individuals to whom an employee may bring a complaint, including an individual that has authority but is outside the direct line of supervision of the harassed employee, in order to ensure that the employee will not have to complain to the alleged harasser. Complaints should also be made in writing
- Time frame for investigation. Give an idea of how long the investigation should take and when an answer can be expected.
- Penalties. State that anyone violating the policy will be subject to discipline, ranging from a warning to discharge, if appropriate. Also inform potential perpetrators of the civil penalties that can be imposed for violating the laws against sexual harassment.
- Confidentiality provision. Explain that the identity of both complaining employee and the alleged harasser will be protected, but announce that action will be taken.
- Protection against retaliation. Provide that anyone making a complaint will not be retaliated against, even if a complaint made in good faith is not founded. Also explain that any witnesses will be protected.
In addition to establishing a written policy prohibiting harassment and taking all harassment complaints seriously, employers should take the following steps:
- Communicate your policy to all employees on a regular basis.
- Train managers and supervisors to enforce the policy.
- Establish an effective company complaint procedure that encourages employees to come forward with allegations of harassment.
- Quickly investigate all complaints pursuant to a well-planned investigative procedure.
- Take swift action to eliminate harassment when it is identified, in such a manner that both the victim and harasser are treated fairly.
- Be vigilant in your efforts to prevent harassment from occurring.
Cite: Mikels v Durham, City of (4thCir 1999), 75 EPD 45,930.
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