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Steps to create a harassment-free workplace for your employees

As an employer, you have an ethical and legal obligation to your employees. Your personal sense of morality will guide what ethical obligations you have, but federal and state laws regarding the rights of workers make your legal obligations straightforward.

Your employees have the right to a safe workplace. You should take steps to mitigate environmental risks for your staff. It also involves preventing harassment that creates a hostile work environment for workers.

There are laws explicitly forbidding harassment by either members of management or coworkers, as well as customers or others they interact with for work. Explain expectations regarding employee conduct to your staff. Include theses terms as part of your training and employment contract to reduce your risk of facing claims or lawsuits by your workers.

Staff should have training on how to avoid harassment and report it

Most human resources and training companies will offer specific courses that discuss issues such as sexual harassment and racial discrimination in the workplace.

Making sure that all of your new employees or existing staff members who did not undergo such training as part of their initial hiring process complete this training will show that you have made a dedicated effort to eliminate discrimination and harassment.

On top of receiving training about what constitutes harassment and how your company does not tolerate it, workers should receive information about how to report harassment. Your company should have a straightforward policy on reporting harassment that involves going to management or human resources. Ideally, you will have a secondary reporting process in case the first one gets compromised by the involvement of a harasser in the chain of reporting.

Take any claim someone brings seriously

When someone does bring a claim of harassment or discrimination to your attention, no matter how unrealistic or exaggerated it may sound, it is critical that you investigate it thoroughly and document how you have attempted to address the issue. That way, you can show that your company has been proactive in its attempt to protect workers from inappropriate workplace encounters.

Even companies that do everything in their power to provide a safe workplace can still wind up accused of discrimination or harassment. This is why documenting everything is important in case you have to go to court to protect the company.