In the wake of the harassment allegations against high profile leaders and Hollywood stars plaguing headlines, there’s never been a better time to examine how your small business handles anti-harassment training.

In fact, The House recently voted to require anti-harassment and anti-discrimination training for all of its members and staff.

With your resources stretched thin trying to keep your small business thriving, it’s understandable that a thorough training might get overlooked. But it’s critical for not only regulatory compliance, but the well-being of your most important assets: your employees.

First, what is harassment?

According to ThinkHR, who powers our HR Advisory product, workplace harassment consists of unwelcome conduct (whether verbal, physical, or visual) that is based upon a person’s protected status such as:

  • Sex
  • Color
  • Race
  • Ancestry
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic information
  • Other legally protected group status

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) goes on to explain that harassment becomes unlawful when:

  • Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment (commonly referred to as quid pro quo).
  • The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. (Officially called hostile work environment harassment).

You can read the full breakdown by clicking here.

Liability as an employer.

According to the EEOC, you, as the employer, are automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action including, termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages.

For non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (ex. independent contractors or onsite customers), the employer (you) will be liable if you knew, or should’ve known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate action.

More details on this can be found here.

Research.

As part of the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, they put together a recent report with comprehensive research, stats, checklists and suggestions. It shows that almost a full one-third of the approximate 90,000 charges received by the EEOC in 2015 included an allegation of workplace harassment.

Also in 2015, the EEOC alone recovered $164.5 million for workers alleging harassment. Those direct costs are only the tip of the iceberg.

Workplace harassment affects everyone. Aside from the suffering of the person who experiences harassment directly, decreased productivity, increased turnover and reputational harm all come into play. All these factors affect performance and essentially, your bottom line.  

Strategy and training.

The EEOC suggests that the foundation of successful harassment prevention is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of leaders to create and maintain a work culture where harassment is not tolerated.

Here are a few quick points surrounding an effective training strategy. It should be:

  • Championed by leadership.
  • Reinforced regularly.
  • Provided to employees at every level of the organization.
  • Provided in a clear format and style – this includes all languages used by employees.
  • Routinely evaluated by participants and revised if necessary.

The EEOC’s recommendation is that companies have a harassment policy that is comprehensive, easy to understand and regularly communicated to all employees. Don’t forget to thoroughly review the steps with your employees and ensure they know their responsibility if a situation arises.

The report has tons of details on these items and more. Read it all here.

So, what if your small business doesn’t have the resources for an HR department?

Consider PrimePay’s HR Advisory solution. This comprehensive resource is designed to simplify tough HR decisions for you. 

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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion.  Consult your own legal advisor regarding specific application of the information to your own plan.