Running a business requires you to make numerous decisions on a daily basis that may help increase its success. If you have employees, this includes keeping the workplace free from discrimination, harassment and other activities and behaviors that create a hostile work environment.
That may sound like a good idea, but you could struggle with how to do that considering the myriad of personalities that work for you. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission makes it sound easy, but the reality may not be. You may want to create an environment that fosters productivity and satisfaction among employees and simply need the appropriate advice and guidance to do so.
Let everyone know what you expect of them
Keeping the work environment at your company one in which people want to work may not always happen easily, but the following steps could help reduce the potential for harassment, discrimination and hostility:
- Create policies against discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
- Distribute those policies to managers, supervisors and employees.
- Conduct training to ensure that everyone understands the policies.
- Appoint someone to receive complaints.
- Appoint someone to investigate complaints.
- Ensure managers and supervisors report complaints to that person immediately.
You and those you appoint to receive employee complaints should abide by and enforce the policies created.
Enforce policies against harassment and discrimination
You and your staff will want to take every complaint seriously, but you must create a balance as well. Remember that the individual accused of wrongdoing has rights, too. Business experts recommend the following steps to keep that balance in your workplace:
- Meticulously document the investigation into any complaints.
- Keep information regarding the complaint, the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator confidential.
- Take necessary but non-disciplinary actions to prevent further issues during the investigation.
- Make the punishment fit the crime if the investigation backs up the complaint
Finding a delicate balance between satisfying the victim regarding the complaint and not being overly harsh to the wrongdoer can present a challenge. Even though it could potentially cause issues for the company in the short-term, you may wish to encourage employees subjected to wrongdoing to seek the help they need, even if that means legal assistance.
Reviewing policies with professional help
Finally, as much as you never want to receive a harassment or discrimination complaint from an employee, it could provide the opportunity to test the policies and procedures you instituted. If they require any changes, modifications or adjustments, the incident could highlight the need for them. It's nearly impossible to create a policy or procedure for every eventuality, but as issues arise, it's an opportunity to address them.
It may help to consult with an attorney who understands employment law. He or she may help you take the appropriate measures not only to provide as friendly a work environment as possible for employees, but also to protect your rights and minimize the potential for litigation against you.