There are some simple steps business owners can take to combat the threat of discrimination and harassment litigation. A program to educate employees in harassment prevention is the most practical way to avoid or limit liability. Your prevention program should include the following:
• Have an anti-harassment policy. A written Company policy on discrimination and harassment, including sexual harassment needs to be implemented.
• Communicate your policy to your employees. Not educating your employees regarding the policy is the same as not having one. All employees should be aware of the seriousness of policy violations.
• Train your supervisors. Supervisory personnel need to know how to comply with your harassment policy and how to recognize harassment. They need to understand that they may be held personally liable if they harass subordinates.
• Investigate complaints promptly. Any time an employee says he or she is being harassed, take the complaint seriously and investigate it immediately.
• Prevent retaliation. Make sure not to allow retaliation against the employee making the complaint.
• Do all you can to create a non-hostile work environment. Stress the importance of mutual respect and stipulate that harassing behavior will not be tolerated.
Employers with multicultural work forces are especially vulnerable to frictions in the workplace, employee relations issues, and challenges in enforcing federal and state laws. Many times language differences or lack of experience with U.S. laws can turn misunderstandings into major morale and legal issues.